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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and PM Ehud Olmert
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Olmert: We need 10 more days of military operations
Israeli PM tells US Secretary of State Rice country needs 10 days to two weeks to finish Lebanon offensive. Defense Minister Peretz warns of 'final strike' by Hizbullah in retaliation for Qana attack

We need ten to fourteen days of continued military operations – This was said by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a meeting between the two Saturday.

 

Pursuant to the incident in Qana, Olmert told government ministers of his meeting with Rice during a cabinet meeting Sunday. He is scheduled to meet Rice again later Sunday afternoon in Jerusalem. "We intend to continue military operations until we achieve our objectives," Olmert told the ministers.

 

Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, warned of a potential 'final strike' by Hizbullah in the form of a large barrage of short-range rockets or the launching of long-range rockets. "I instructed the IDF and homefront command to be prepared for such an eventuality," he said.

 

The air strike in Qana constitutes an uncomfortable affair for the Israeli government. Early Sunday afternoon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Livni, who was scheduled to meet the Italian foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema, to issue a statement about recent event. She decided not to address, at this time, the incident in which 57 Lebanese civilians, half of them children, were killed.

 

Olmert met with Rice on Saturday night to discuss the 19-day-old Israeli offensive in southern Lebanon. Their meeting came before the Israeli strike in Qana.   Pursuant to the event, Olmert and Rice scheduled a new meeting on Sunday evening.

 

Israeli deeply regrets civilian deaths

 

"I express my deep regret, which is shared by the entire State of Israel and the IDF, over the death of civilians in the village of Qana. There is nothing far away from our thoughts and interests than hurting civilians, and everyone understands this," Olmert said.

 

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz also expressed his regret over the fact that civilians were hurt. "We are operating in a place from where Katyushas are being launched and we conveyed messages to the citizens, asking them to leave the area. Unfortunately, people who gathered in the place, while we were unaware of their presence, were hurt," he said.

 

Sources in the Israel Defense Forces noted that with all the deep regret over the incident, Israeli cannot halts its operation while Hizbullah terrorists are directing their Katyusha rockets at Israeli cities, including at hospitals.  A senior IAF officer emphasized that that dozens of  Katyusha rockets were launched from the village and its surrounding areas. 

 

AP contributed to the report

 

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