Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
rejected Tuesday morning the EU request for a 48-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, saying that Israel will uphold its commitment to provide basic foodstuffs and medicines to the residents of the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.
"Look where they are shooting. They are reaching Gedera. Before the lull, they were shooting 20 kilometers (9 miles). After the lull, they are shooting 40 kilometers (18 miles). If there is another lull, they will reach 60 kilometers (25 miles) and more. I respect the UN and its institutions, but right now we must act in accordance with the regional initiative lead by the Americans and to put an 'international blanket' over the fire in Gaza," Olmert told European foreign ministers at his Jerusalem office.
The PM's comments came in response to Hamas' statement according to which it will increase the range of its rocket fire to put a greater number of Israelis in harm's way.
Iran and Syria are continually trying to smuggle improved rockets into the Strip. So far most of the rockets fired at Israel with a range of up to 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) were manufactured by Hamas.
Olmert added that "the most important thing from our standpoint is to stop the smuggling and the strengthening of Hamas. We have had enough of the gestures; we demand action that will bring security to the residents of Israel's south.
The PM called on the European foreign ministers, including the Czech Republic's Karel Schwarzenberg, Sweden's Carl Bildt and EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, to support a regional initiative that would see Egypt take control over the Philadelphi Route and prevent the arms smuggling into Gaza.
The European officials urged Olmert to consider a 48-hour truce. The prime minister told them that any agreement must force Hamas to end its incessant rocket attacks on Israel.