PM Ehud Olmert (Archive photo)
Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO

Olmert: No apologies for Gaza strikes

PM arrives in Tokyo for official visit, tells reporters 'we will strike wherever necessary to halt Qassam rocket fire.' Adds possibility that Palestinian mob will attempt to infiltrate Israel during mass Gaza rally unlikely but that Israel is prepared for any scenario. Organizer: Our activities are non-violent

The possibility that a Palestinian mob would attempt to cross into Israel through the Gaza security fence during the Hamas-organized mass protest is unlikely, but Israel is prepared for any scenario, Ehud Olmert said upon arriving in Tokyo on Monday on his first visit to Japan as prime minister.


"I am not aware of any warning regarding the possible infiltration of Palestinians into Israel, but in the Middle East, even the most imaginary scenario should be taken seriously," Olmert said.


Tens of thousands of Palestinians will join hands on Monday to form a human chain across the Gaza in protest of the ongoing blockade against the Hamas-ruled territory. At an expected 30 miles of length, the chain will stretch from Rafah in the south all the way to the northern town of Beit Hanoun.


Rami Abdu, a spokesman for the Popular Committee Against Siege, estimated that some 50,000 Gazans would attend the rally, adding that he did not expect any clashes with IDF soldiers.


"Our activities are non-violent, but the world must know that our nation is in despair and under siege," he said.

Israeli defense officials have emphasized that under no circumstances will security forces allow the Palestinians to sabotage or cross the fence along Gaza's border.


Southern District Police Commander Uri Bar-Lev ordered 6,500 police officers to deploy along the protest route, with tactical headquarters set up in three sectors: Erez Crossing, Kibbutz Beeri and Ashkelon.


Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio "we will operate as we did in the first intifada against mass demonstrations; we will know how to deal with it. We won't mess around in this matter; we will take all the necessary measures to prevent infiltration into Israel's territory," he said.


"I hope the Hamas regime, which is bringing a Holocaust on its people, will eventually understand what it can and cannot do. They are trapped in their crazy ideology of Israel's destruction; they know it's not practical; they know they can't do it."


During his visit to Japan, the prime minister, who is accompanied by his wife Aliza and 24 prominent Israeli businessmen, is expected to meet his counterpart Yasuo Fukuda as well as Emperor Akihito.


Referring to the economic siege on Gaza, the prime minister said "we will strike wherever necessary to halt the Qassam rocket fire. We will not be lectured by anyone on this matter.


"Everyone is aware of the extent of the rocket fire (at Israel); we don’t have to apologize to anyone," he said.


Olmert called for new UN sanctions to be imposed on Iran, after the UN nuclear watchdog said Tehran had failed to provide satisfactory answers to reports showing work linked to atomic bombs.


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Friday it had confronted Iran with Western intelligence reports and Tehran had not so far explained documents pointing to undeclared efforts to "weaponize" nuclear materials by linking uranium processing with explosives and designing a missile warhead.


"If we had formulated the report, we would have made it sharper," Olmert told reporters on the flight to Tokyo, where he will stay until Thursday.


Ali Waked, Yonat Atlas and Reuters contributed to the report 


פרסום ראשון: 02.25.08, 08:10
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