Prime Minister Ehud Olmert received several briefings by security officials early Tuesday morning following the Qassam attack on an IDF recruit training base in southern Israel that wounded 67 soldiers.
Later in the morning he met with with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss the recent developments.
Several of his cabinet ministers however have already publicly called on Olmert to launch a military operation in Gaza.
"We don't expect another 'Operation Defensive Shield' following the incident in Zikim – but the IDF has already responded and will continue to act against the terror infrastructure and its leaders," said officials in Jerusalem ahead of Olmert's meetings.
"It would be problematic to carry out a major operation now of all times, as a reaction to the attack on IDF soldiers – after all, there were civilians wounded in the past as well. We should not create a situation where it appears that the army is only defending its soldiers. Alongside this we must also remember that there are still tensions in the north," they said, adding that in any case a large-scale operation would likely wait until after the upcoming Jewish holidays.
"The hourglass has long since run out, a red line has been crossed," said Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai, a staunch believer that Qassams are a result of the Israeli disengagement. A military operation in Gaza, he said, was unavoidable.
Yishai also said Israel should refrain from participating in the upcoming US-led peace summit: "This is not the time for empty gestures – and this is not the time to attend an international conference. I want a summit that will result in peace, not war."
Likud faction chairman, MK Gideon Sa'ar, slammed Olmert's reaction. "Olmert's government, which continues to release terrorists from prison and promise Abbas new concessions and withdrawals, refuses to face reality and deal with a Hamas nation in Gaza," he said.
"A military operation, with the inclusion of ground forces, is unavoidable in sealing with the surge in rocket fire against Israel and the strengthening of Hamas in Gaza – primarily due to the unfiltered flow of arms into the Strip. The longer we wait for such an operation, the higher the price we will have to pay to complete it."
MK Zevulun Orlev, the National Union-NRP chairman also criticized Olmert: "Instead of embracing Abbas and freeing murderers, the government should be fulfilling its duty to defend the citizens of the State of Israel and ordering a ground operation in Gaza. It has again been made clear that hesitation and inaction
tax a heavy price in blood and we must not sit back and wait for the next tragedy to strike."
Fellow party member MK Effie Eitam called on Shas and Israel Our Home to resign from the government unless a military operation is authorized.
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report