Livni: Our goal is not to hurt civilians
Foreign minister meets with Turkish reporters, says peace negotiations with moderates will continue. Defense Minister Barak tours north, conveys message to Gaza's residents: 'When the rocket fire and the terror activities inside Israel stop, the road will be paved for a different reality of peace and good neighborly relations'
Civilians are also hurt in fighting but that is not Israel's goal, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday.
"I am here to clarify that our values and the army's ways of action dictate taking steps needed in order to reduce the harm caused to civilians," Livni said in a meeting with dozens of Turkish reporters visiting Israel.
"The fact that the Palestinian terror operates from within populated area, creating rockets in houses' cellars and firing them from the heart of the neighborhoods is what leads to the civilians being harmed," the foreign minister added.
"I don’t have to explain the meaning of terror on the streets to Turkey's citizens. Israel and Turkey are part of the same camp of states which understand the nature of the threat of extremism in the region. We don’t only need understanding on the part of the moderate leaderships, but clear statements directed at their public and the radicals, clarifying their views on terror.
"Israel's citizens are being attacked from Gaza on a daily basis. Israel left Gaza and there is no justified reason for these attacks. It is unthinkable, and we won't accept it. Terror is terror is terror, and Israel will work to stop these attacks, harm Hamas and stop it from getting stronger, while continuing the negotiations with the moderates."
Barak: When rockets stop, there will be calm
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the operational activity in the Gaza Strip will continue much longer.
"Our duty as a government is to return the calm to Sderot, Ashkelon and the Gaza vicinity," Barak said during a visit to northern Israel. "The Israeli government will fulfill its duty – even if this means we will have to increase the pressure on the Qassam launchers.
"To Gaza's residents I say from here: When the rocket fire and the terror activities inside Israel stop, the road will be paved for a different reality of peace and good neighborly relations between the two sides.
"To our friends from across the world asking questions about the IDF's activity, I say that those Qassam launchers are responsible for what is happening in Gaza."
The defense minister attended a ceremony inaugurating 1,700 bomb shelters renovated over the past eight months in northern Israel, with the help of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
As part of the project, bomb shelters were renovated in Akko, Nahariya, Tiberias, Carmiel, Kiryat Shmona, Safed, Ma'a lot, Haztor Haglilit and Shlomi.
"This is an exciting day which ends with results significantly affecting the calm and security of residents in the north," Barak said. "We visited two bomb shelters in Shlomi and saw the essence of the renovation.
"I believe we've made an important step in advancing the security of the residents in times of emergency. Just like we say about doctors – I hope we have bomb shelters which won't have to use."
Message from the northShlomi Mayor Gabi Naaman conveyed a message to the south's residents on behalf of local council heads in the north.
"For years we have experienced life in the shadow of fire and shooting. I strengthen you and offer our help. To the government I say – don't deter, and as you restored the calm on Israel's northern border, the same should be done on the southern border. We strengthen the government and support all of its moves aimed at achieving this goal."
Deputy Defese Minister Matan Vilnai noted that the Defense Ministry would begin upgrading bomb shelters in the western Galilee communities. The renovation of 1,700 shelters is expected to cost NIS 42 million (about $11.6 million).
Hagai Einav contributed to this report