The official spoke after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert placed an embargo on the resolutions of his four-hour meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin and other defense officials on ways to continue the military operation in Gaza.
Operation Cast Lead – Day 4: The main headlines:
- Rockets land in Kiryat Malachi, Rahat area
- Grad missile hits Beersheba
- Ministers asked to approve additional draft
- Sarkozy to visit Israel to promote truce
Sources in Jerusalem made it clear after the meeting that the French definition for the ceasefire, as suggested by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to Defense Minister Barak, was unacceptable. They added, however, that a ceasefire would be possible if Hamas were to stop firing rockets towards Israel.
Waiting for order. Soldiers in Gaza border (Photo: AP)
"At the end of the day, the operation is aimed at restoring peace in the south. If this is honored, we will consider how to proceed," a state official said.
Some 40 Qassam rockets and Grad missiles were fired at the western Negev communities throughout Tuesday. Two people were lightly hurt by shrapnel and about 60 suffered shock.
The rocket fire reached new ranges on Tuesday, with Grad missiles landing in Beersheba and near the cities of Kiryat Malachi and Rahat.
Weather conditions may hamper ground incursion
Earlier Tuesday, government ministers approved the draft of 2,500 reserve soldiers, in addition to the enlistment of 6,700 reservists which was approved earlier this week, in order to expand the fighting units ahead of a possible ground incursion in Gaza.
The move was aimed at signaling that Israel's plans to possibly enter the Strip in order to oppress the Palestinian rocket fire still stand.
Defense officials clarified that Israel's ground incursion may be avoided due to the harsh weather conditions expected in the next 48 hours. However, the IDF is prepared to defend the home front if it realizes that there is no other way to stop the rocket and mortar fire.
An increasing number of ministers demanded Tuesday night that Israel turn down calls made by France and other countries to accept a ceasefire.
Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai said the Gaza operation must not be halted until the Israel Air Force hits its entire bank of targets. Then, he said, Israel should allow four-hour pauses each time for the delivery of aid into the Strip and in order to examine Hamas' willingness to accept a ceasefire.