For the last seven years, the Hamas and other terrorist organizations, were attacking innocent Israelis in the south part of the country and threatened the lives of many thousands of Israelis that wanted to live peacefully in their homes and to carry on their lives in a comfortable and normal way. Israel did everything in its power to try to cooperate with the principles of a ceasefire in order to bring relaxation to this part. Unfortunately, the efforts that we made were met by continuous attacks and violations of the basic understandings that were reached by the assistance of Egypt. No country in the world can accept or acquiesce with this approach. In the last few days, it became clear that Hamas is prepared to carry on the attacks and to increase the shooting of Kassam rockets and mortar shells against Israelis in the south part of the country.
Everyone who heard the leaders of the Hamas in the last few days can easily understand easily that they are not looking for peace, they are not looking for relaxation, they are not looking for ceasefire, they are looking for a country to continue their attacks and to try and do everything in order to upset the lives of so many innocent Israelis in our part of the country. In the last few days the Cabinet approved the operation and on Friday evening I discussed the situation with the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miss Livni, and with the Minister of Defense and with the commanders of the army and the security forces, and we decided to move forward.
The operation in Gaza intends primarily to change the situation in the south part or our country. It may take some time and all of us are prepared to carry the burden and the pains that are an inseparable part of this situation. Already today, we lost one Israeli citizen in Netivot, Beber Vaknin, of blessed memory, and a few Israelis were injured and of course I offer my sympathies to the families of those who suffered from these attacks. We did everything in order to make sure that Israelis in the south part of the country will be protected under the circumstances. Its’ not going to be easy. It’s not going to last just a few days. It may continue and one thing must be clear. We are not fighting against the people of Gaza. I take this opportunity to appeal to the people of Gaza. As I have said several times in the past, you, the citizens of Gaza are not our enemies. Hamas, Jihad, the other terrorist organizations, are your enemies as they are our enemies. They brought disaster on you and they try to bring disaster to the people of Israel. And it is our common goal to make every possible effort to stop them, so that we will be able to establish an entirely different type of relationship with us and them.
The efforts that we made today were focused entirely on military targets. We tried to avoid and I think quite successfully, to hit any uninvolved people. We attacked only targets that are part of the Hamas organizations where they manufacture their Kassem Rockets and the mortar shells and the headquarters and the command positions of this organization and other organizations. We’ll continue to make an effort to avoid any unnecessary inconveniences to the people of Gaza. I promise you on behalf of the Government of Israel that we will make every possible effort to avoid any humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The people of Gaza do not deserve to suffer because of the killers and murderers of the terrorist organizations. I am certain that the Israeli public is united behind the goals of this operation. I was encouraged today by the announcement made by the head of the opposition, Mr. Netanyahu, who supported the attack initiative of Israel and by the leaders of other major parties and of other prominent figures from the State of Israel.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, and his courageous soldiers, and the Head of the Israeli General Security Services, Mr. Diskin and his fighters for their very courageous operations. And finally I want to thank my colleagues, the Vice Prime Minister, Ms. Livni, and Minister of Defense, Mr. Barak, for the very good operation that they have managed together with the Cabinet and myself to carry on in order to achieve our goals.
Thank you very much.