Speaking at a meeting with top officials, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert instructed participants to refrain from talking about the possibility of a Gaza ceasefire at this time, while focusing on continuing the offensive against terrorists in Gaza.
"We no longer talk about an exit policy, but rather, we are working in order to secure the Gaza operation's objectives," he said. "As long as the fire continues, the Israeli operation will be expanded."
The meeting was attended by Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and top security officials, including Army Chief Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin, and Mossad Director Meir Dagan.
Participants were told that Hamas asked Senegal, the current president of the Islamic Conference, to secure a ceasefire, in a move reflecting the group's difficult condition in the wake of the IDF assault. However, Israeli officials decided to reject the possibility of a ceasefire at this time.
"We need to continue handling Hamas with an iron fist – while handling the civilian population with kid gloves," Olmert said.
An intelligence assessment prepared by the security establishment noted that Hamas' leadership, headed by Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar, went into hiding and is not functioning at this time.
"They are on the run, and the Hamas regime does not function in any way," one security official said. According to information presented in the meeting, some Gaza residents are overjoyed by the blow sustained by the terrorist group.
Meanwhile, Home Front Command officials expressed their concerns over the lack of discipline among Israelis in the face of rocket attacks. Virtually all Israeli casualties thus far failed to follow the Home Front's safety instructions, one official said.
"This is very worrisome," he said. "It could lead to a disaster and a grave moral blow that will undermine the military effort in the Gaza Strip."