Barak praised by committee members
Photo: Dudu Azoulay
Second day of groudn operation
Photo: Reuters
Air strikes in Gaza continue
Photo: AP

Barak says Gaza partially besieged

Speaking at start of Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, defense minister notes IDF operation in Gaza 'is being held as planned. The forces have reached ground targets we set for them'. As for fear of new front in north, Barak says 'we are prepared, ready and monitoring everything'

The Israel Defense Forces' ground operation in the Gaza Strip is being held as planned, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday morning.


Speaking at the start of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Barak noted that "Gaza City is partially besieged and the forces have reached the ground targets we set for them."


Moving on to the operation's results so far, the defense minister said, "More than 500 people have been killed, most of them Hamas men, and over 2,200 are injured. As for our forces: One killed, four seriously injured and eight moderately hurt."


He offered his condolences to the family of Staff-Sergeant Dvir Emanuelof, the Golani fighter who was killed in the operation on Saturday night, and wished the injured a speedy recovery.


Barak reiterated the operation's goals, as presented when it was launched: "Changing the security-related reality in southern Israel. We aspire to create a new reality, with no activities against soldiers and citizens, changing the smuggling situation and restoring a state of calm in the south.


"Hamas has suffered a very heavy blow, but we have yet to reach the goals we set for ourselves, so the operation continues. International talks are being held simultaneously," he said, noting that armored, engineering and artillery corps were taking part in the ground operation, alongside the Navy, Air Force and special units.


'40% of rockets hit built areas'

Barak told the committee members that "60% of rockets fired from Gaza land in open areas, and 40% in built areas." He added that 10% have hit buildings and that a direct hit was only recorded in 2% of the cases.


The defense minister said he had approved the reserve call-up "in order to prepare for the next stage, if needed. The reserve force is a great group of people working voluntarily and from the power of motivation.

Knesset committee (Photo: Dudu Azoulay)


"The IDF is prepared and ready for the next stage as well. The home front is handled according to an organized plan. The most important thing is to obey the Home Front Command's instructions."


Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi were praised by nearly all committee members, apart from Knesset Member Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), who criticized the ground incursion.


The defense minister explained that "we declared a special situation of up to 40 kilometers in the home front. The cooperation between the different government ministries is good, and for the first time in many years a national economy emergency system was operated.


MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) said that "the diplomatic timeframe is being minimized upon the arrival of the French president and the European foreign ministers. We must prepare fast and firmly for a victory and work to obtain a ceasefire agreement which will remove the missile threat and change the security situation in the region."


According to Shalom, "Israel must not accept an apparent ceasefire at the expense of the security and future of millions of citizens. We had enough with the previous so-called lull, which allowed Hamas to arm itself with missiles reaching Beersheba."


"We're not eager for a bloody confrontation," Barak said. "We are doing everything a nation which seeks to live owes its citizens – defending them. I am filled with appreciation for the south's residents, for the local leadership and for the home front people.


"Our eyes are also turned towards what is happening in the north. We are prepared, ready and monitoring everything.


"We have someone to count on. We are working to bring peace and quiet. All of Israel's citizens are looking at us united and are certain of the righteousness of this battle. We will emerge from this test with the upper hand," he concluded.


פרסום ראשון: 01.05.09, 11:29
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