While the prime minister is waiting for the cessation of rocket fire in order to start negotiations for a ceasefire, state officials stressed that "If there will be a way to meet the operation's objectives without a ground offensive it would be preferable, otherwise – we are ready for a ground operation."
IDF representatives briefed cabinet members about the significant damage caused to the Gaza terrorists' rocket array as well as the army's readiness to expand Operation Pillar of Defense.
More than 1,000 Gaza targets were hit since the operation began last Wednesday. At least 10 Palestinians were killed in Air Force airstrikes
including women and children on Sunday. The army also killed the head of Hamas' rocket unit, Yahia Abia.
Strike in Gaza (Photo: AFP)
During the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu praised the IDF, Chief of Staff Benny Ganz and
the intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet and the Military Intelligence. "There is excellent operational activity by the Air Force and ground forces. The hits are precise and painful. I am convinced that the reservists will carry out their orders."
Following the meeting, Netanyahu met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and
asked him to consider what France would have done had its cities been under a constant threat of rocket fire.
He added that Israel has the right to defend itself and will do whatever necessary to stop the firing. Asked about a possible lull, the prime minister said that the rocket fire must cease before a truce can be considered.
PM Netanyahu with Chief of Staff Gantz. (Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO)
Netanyahu also spoke to his Dutch counterpart and is set to hold further talks with other world leaders. He is scheduled to be briefed about the operation later on Sunday.
State officials said there were constant truce proposals, including an Egyptian-initiated hudna. Nevertheless, the prime minister's bureau refused to address reports of the arrival of an Israeli envoy in Egypt.
"The halting of the fire overnight was not part of a truce," one state official said. "All of the attempts to secure a ceasefire have yet to mature."
Other state officials said that the bombing of a Gaza building where journalists were staying is being investigated. "No one did that intentionally. We are trying to avoid harming civilians as much as we can. The other side has set the harming of civilians as its goal."
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Ambassador in Israel Dan Shapiro visited the Iron Dome battery deployed in the Tel Aviv area. Barak said the system intercepted 90% of the 300 rockets fired at urban areas. The goal, he said, was to have 13 batteries deployed across Israel.
"We are in a state of conflict with Hamas which is not over and we may need to see bigger, more aggressive actions," he said. "The reserve forces are ready. We shall do whatever it takes to lift the threat, to bolster our deterrence, and pound Hamas and the Jihad with force in order to restore calm."
Referring to the possibility of a ceasefire, Barak
said, "We will keep intensifying our efforts. If the need arises we won’t hesitate to launch a ground offensive.
"We shall do whatever it takes to meet the goals of the operation. We are not set in our minds to carry out a (ground) assault but we won't hesitate if reality demands it. We assume it's not purely up to us."
said that the US' support still stands. He said Washington was proud to see its support reach almost $300 million in aid. "This support will continue in the future," he remarked.