The decision about the expansion of the IDF operation
in Gaza to a possible ground offensive
will be made within a day or two, Minister Silvan Shalom said Monday.
Speaking at a special broadcast on Ynet's TV studio he said, "It is important for Egypt
to be part of this process but past experience had shown that Egypt does not fully deliver."
The minister further added, "A decision will be made in a day or two. There is a clear plan for a ground deployment as well as a partial entrance alternative. Another alternative is full deployment and an exit at a later stage. It is also possible we'll go in and stay there.
"I'm not eager for battle but if we reach the conclusion that this is the only answer, it's the army's job to protect the civilians, not the civilians' job to protect the army."
Damage in Gaza (Photo: AP)
Shalom also discussed Hamas'
current state. "There's no doubt Hamas is in deep trouble. It's for a reason that they're rushing to Cairo to seek a truce. They've taken a lot of hits, the terrorist leaders know that they can't leave their houses." The minister said that he will only endorse a ceasefire if there is a full cessation of rocket fire at Israel.
He ruled out the option of negotiating with Hamas. "With whom are we meant to talk to? Read the Hamas charter. They believe that no Muslim can give up one inch of the sacred ground, who can we talk to then?"
Shalom stressed that the Netanyahu administration tried to initiate negotiations with the Palestinians "from the moment it started its term."
"Netanyahu gave the Bar-Ilan speech, froze settlements for 10 months. And still there were no negotiations. So blaming us is absolutely ludicrous."
Strike in Gaza (Photo: AFP) Minister Moshe Ya'alon also appeared on Ynet's TV studio. "We won't stop our fire until there is calm," he said.
The minister explained that "it was the other side that opened fire after the disengagement, even after the IDF and Israeli civilians left the Strip. We as a government have said all along that if there is no threat from the Strip, we won't operate there. But if terrorist attacks are initiated from there and rockets are fired from there we will act to thwart them."
Gaza stadium after IAF bombing (Photo: Reuters)
Ya'alon said that the targeted killings will continue as will the air strikes in Gaza. "There are dozens more targets. We have yet to complete the assault on the launching pits. It's beyond the cells trying to fire from Gaza. The list is long."
Commenting on the recent killing of Palestinian civilians, the minister said, "No doubt we don’t want to hurt those who are uninvolved, certainly not women and children – contrary to Hamas. When it happens it's considered a failure, while they intentionally try to hurt civilians."
"In order to avoid harming civilians we have distributed 200,000 leaflets calling on people to stay away from Hamas operatives, we have arranged 40,000 automatic phone calls to houses, have sent 12,000 text messages to cell phones."
"When civilians fail to stay away from Hamas facilities and Hamas operatives, mistakes can happen. It's a densely populated area, it's not easy. But I don't think there is an army in the world that is more careful that the IDF."
Earlier on Monday, MK Miri Regev (Likud) and MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) held a debate at Ynet's TV studio. "The civilians in Gaza put their own pressure, they don't want to live in hell," Regev said. "But if our residents live in shelters then their residents will live in basements."
Zahalka said in response, "It won’t work, you can't break the Palestinian people."
Regev then slammed Zahalka saying "who do you represent, the Palestinians or the Israelis? If you want to represent Hamas - go to Gaza. You're a hypocrite and a traitor."
She further added, "He's used to terrorists, to Arafat, to Fatah men. A terrorist remains a terrorist. He who championed terror in the past, champions terror today."
Zahalka replied, "I'm against harming civilians. One can stop the bloodshed by drastically changing Israel's policy."