"There are first signs that Hamas is toning down its views in regards to a possible ceasefire," Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin told the political echelon on Sunday.
"Hamas is willing to reach an agreement," the Shin Bet chief told the ministers, but warned that the rocket fire was expected to continue.
According to Diskin, "The Hamas leadership abroad is stressed, working to obtain a ceasefire and disappointed by the Arab countries failing to stand by its side. The situation of the leadership in Gaza is similar. A real threat exists today on the Hamas enterprise in the Gaza Strip. The leaderships in Gaza and abroad feel an existential threat."
IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that more than 400 Palestinians had been killed in the operation so far, most of them Hamas men. "Not much is left from the Hamas government," he said.
Ashkenazi added that the fighting was tough and was mainly carried out from close range. "I spoke to the brigade and regiment commanders on the ground, and I'm encouraged by their determination and willingness to complete the mission.
"Hamas prefers fighting in constructed area. The rocket fire till now is lower than expected, but Hamas still has the ability to fire rockets. The activity cannot stop the rocket fire, and we expect it to continue."
According to Military Intelligence chief Major-General Amos Yadlin, "Hamas understands that violating the lull was a strategic mistake. It suffered a great blow. Dozens of headquarters have been damaged, the ammunition warehouses and production infrastructure were destroyed. The ability to smuggle through the tunnels was damaged.
"The organization leaders only care about themselves. There is harsh criticism against them among the Palestinians. Hamas has brought hate upon itself and found itself isolated in a lepers' alliance with Iran and Syria."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Hamas suffered a very heavy blow, "but we have yet to reach a situation of changing the reality in the southern part of the country." He added that the IDF was "prepared for any stage and any development".
Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen reported of 600 people arrested in riots across the country in the past week, 230 of whom are still jailed. Fifty police officers were injured in clashes.
IDF troops in Gaza (Photo: AFP)
Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel said in a briefing to the media at the end of the meeting that the government had made it clear that this was not a war on the Palestinian people and that Israel had no plans of reoccupying the Gaza Strip. As far as Israel's knows, he said, there is no humanitarian crisis on the other side.
"The operation may take a while, and we may be facing difficult days. Our forces and citizens may suffer injuries, and the home front will continue to be fired on. However, the strength of the south's residents and their determination will enable the government and the IDF achieve the targets.
"The home front's steadfast standing is the home front's tail wind these days. The spirit of fighting and the belief that we are right, along with professional abilities, are the guarantee that we will meet our targets," Yehezkel said.
Livni: No diplomatic product with HamasThe government convened Sunday morning at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv and approved the emergency draft of tens of thousands addition reserve soldiers, some of whom will replace the regular forces which have moved from the West Bank and northern Israel to Gaza.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni briefed the ministers on the diplomatic aspect of the operation and addressed the day after.
"My opinion that in the long term we must lead to the collapse of the Hamas government is well known," she said, "and this is not an issue for a sole operation. Any arrangement must advance the interests of the State of Israel in the face of Hamas.
"We have no intention of creating a diplomatic product with Hamas," Livni clarified. "We need diplomatic products against Hamas, and we view any product that will weaken it as positive."
She added that the diplomatic issue which will be critical on the day after the operation would be an answer to the weapon smuggling in the Strip.
"Beyond that, this is a war on terror and on its motivation to fire at the citizens of the State of Israel."
During the meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert elaborated on the goals of the ground operation in Gaza.
"The ground operation, that we started last night, is meant to set the foundations for our desire to change the security reality in the south. IDF forces set out to damage the military infrastructure set up by Hamas, and to take over launch areas from which many rockets were fired that hit Sderot in recent months and weeks, and Ashkelon and even Ashdod in recent days.
"In a responsible and determined country, we cannot allow the Home Front to be a target for attacks without the bold, strong and skilled army defending it."