(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Following are Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s remarks from the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 16 July 2006:

"This is a very difficult morning for all of us. The severe blows on Haifa follow the murderous attacks on population centers throughout the country. These attacks are designed to hurt civilians because this is Hizbullah’s criminal war against Israel and its residents. On behalf of the Cabinet and the people of Israel, I would like to send condolences to the families of those IDF soldiers and civilians who were killed and best wishes for a full recovery to those who were wounded, and to embrace the abductees and their families.

Several days ago, the State of Israel was attacked from the north. This attack follows the terrorist attack from the Gaza Strip. In both instances, the attacks began without any reason and they are mostly directed against innocent Israeli civilians within the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. In both the north and the south, there is no claim by any regional or international element whatsoever that Israel is in an area the sovereignty of which is disputed. The State of Israel cannot countenance this. We have no interest or desire to hurt the Lebanese or the Palestinian peoples. We want to live our lives quietly and to be good neighbors.

To my regret, there were those who incorrectly interpreted our aspiration to live in peace. We have no intention to give in to these threats. We know that many tests yet await us. Our enemies are trying to disrupt life in Israel – they will fail. The public is strong and united in this struggle.

In both north and south, the resolve being demonstrated by the public is an important part of the strength of the State of Israel and we are very proud of this.  We must show patience and forbearance. This struggle is under no time constraints; this is a daily struggle and we – the Israeli government and public- will continue to show equanimity, determination and sagacity as necessary. Our struggle is both moral and just and no other people in the free world would act as we have.

The Government is ready to extend immediate assistance to the residents of the north – in all areas. Government representatives, at all levels, have been instructed to formulate a socio-economic assistance plan. Throughout the operation, an interministerial Directors-General committee, chaired by Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ra’anan Dinur will – in full coordination with the Finance Ministry – provide assistance as necessary to the residents.

The decisions that we face are difficult and complex. My government is determined to continue doing whatever is necessary in order to achieve our goals. Nothing will deter us, whatever far-reaching ramifications regarding our relations on the northern border and in the region there may be.

In conclusion, I would like to tell Defense Minister Amir Peretz, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi and all members of the IDF and the security services: I am proud to live in a state with such an army and with such security services.  Continue the struggle without hesitation, the entire people of Israel are behind you."