Regarding the firing along the northern border, Prime Minister Olmert said: “At around 04:00 this morning, a barrage of Katyusha rockets was fired approximately eight kilometers into Israel. This assault on Israeli communities was initiated by terrorist elements in Lebanon. We carried out an aerial attack and we will use all aerial and ground responsive measures at our disposal in order to strike at the terrorist elements that tried to disrupt life in the north. We were careful. Naturally, residents in the relevant areas were asked to go into shelters. We do not want any of our civilians to be hurt; we also do not want any innocent Lebanese civilians to be caught up in these exchanges of fire but I can say here that we will – without any doubt – strike a painful blow at all those who try to disrupt life in the north of the country. Israel’s response was an important warning to Palestinian elements in Lebanon of what they may expect if such things recur. We hope that the response will be properly understood and that there will be no further attempts. In the meantime, I hear that the firing is continuing, mainly in the western Galilee and I think that the elements that are taking part in the firing have erred in their assessments. They will receive an unequivocal and aggressive response, without any hesitation, if they do not stop.”
Regarding his upcoming meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Prime Minister Olmert said: “I have said several times that I am in ongoing telephone contact with Egyptian President Mubarak. We agreed that we would meet upon my return from the US and I assume that this meeting will be held next week and that it will be an excellent opportunity for us to consider various issues of interest to both Egypt and to us that affect bilateral relations as well as issues of regional interest.”
Regarding Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Abu Mazen’s referendum initiative, Prime Minister Olmert said: “In my speech to the US Congress, I said that we needed a partner that not only makes statements but that is also active on the ground. The question does not have to do with Abu Mazen’s remarks but whether or not the PA will be capable of meeting the commitments that it has taken upon itself – to dismantle the terrorist organizations, to halt terrorist activity, to recognize Israel in order to achieve peace and security and to carry out its obligations according to the agreements that have been signed. Abu Mazen’s statement does not uphold any plan and we cannot conduct affairs on the basis of a chance speech. We want to strengthen Abu Mazen and will do our utmost so that elements like him are strengthened vis-à-vis Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but we cannot proceed until their policy matches their statements.”
Prime Minister Olmert also discussed the issue of the ‘medicines basket’; see <http://tinyurl.com/keows> for details.