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Photo: Amir Cohen
Peretz (R) and Halutz
Photo: Amir Cohen
Photo: Reuters
What is the price?
Photo: Reuters
Photo: AP
Operation's second day
Photo: AP
Peretz: Operation achievments extraordinary
In meeting with Gaza Division combat soldiers, defense minister says 'there is legitimacy, world understands it is a no-choice confrontation'; adds 'Hamas bears full responsibility.' Chief of staff says about 40 terrorists killed so far
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Friday morning during a meeting with combat soldiers in the Gaza Strip that "IDF soldiers and commanders are fighting while maintaining moral codes which no other army in the world would have maintained."

 

Peretz visited the forces along with IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz.

 

"The terror organizations are operating from inside a population and are using it," Peretz added. "More than once our soldiers see a picture in which terrorists operate with RPG rockets and children protecting them. Our soldiers are doing everything to hurt the terrorists while considering the population."

 

The defense minister shed some light on the aims of the northern Strip operation, which has entered its second day, and on when it is expected to end.

 

"It is important to make it clear that if the terrorists do not put down the Qassams and return them to the storerooms, and if they do not return Gilad Shalit, we will operate until he is returned and until the abilities of the terror organizations are seriously damaged," he said.

 

"We are not dealing anymore with the organization's address," Peretz clarified. "It's over. Hamas bears full responsibility."

 

According to Peretz, Israel embarked on the operation "with national and international legitimacy. Any intelligent person knows that we have tried everything in order to refrain from this confrontation, which is now being held as a no-choice confrontation."

 

"The achievements are remarkable. We lost a soldier and his friends continue to operate here in a bid to continue and complete the work they are required to do. We will do everything to take advantage of any diplomatic space in order to create further solutions," he said.

 

Halutz: Terrorists have paid a heavy price

 

Peretz noted that Israel "is not willing to sink into a swamp in Gaza, and the IDF is operating in the field in order not to sink into Gaza."

 

Lieutenant General Halutz said that the IDF operation will continue for as long as the political echelon decides.

 

"The terrorists have paid a heavy price," he added. "IDF soldiers are doing everything to make it clear to them that they will pay a heavy price. So far close to 40 terror activists have been killed. We will continue to operate as long as it take, we are not committing to a time or place, all according to the need and the matter."

 

"This comes out of an understanding that the political echelon will do everything in order to release Gilad Shalit and thwart Qassam fire. I am not saying that the Qassam fire is being halted, but it will claim a heavy price from them," Halutz said.

 

The Chief of Staff was asked about the remarks made by the father of the soldier killed in the operation, First Sergeant Yehuda Bassel, who criticized the army for sending soldiers instead of aircrafts to the Gaza Strip.

 

"We take part in the pain," Halutz answered. "The Air Force is a full partner in the operation and not everything can be done from the air. We will not save on a UAV, a helicopter or a plane. An army is a collection of capabilities, and everyone must do his job.

 

"I'm sorry for the soldier's death, but this is dangerous work," Halutz concluded.

 

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