Less than a day after the UN Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the Israeli cabinet decided on Friday that the army's offensive in the Hamas-controlled territory will continue.
"The State of Israel has a right to defend its citizens, and therefore the IDF will continue to operate (in Gaza) in order to complete its mission, which is to bring about a change in the security situation in south Israel in accordance with plans that had been approved prior to the launching of the offensive," a statement issued following the cabinet meeting read.
It was further decided that the activity against the smuggling of arms into Gaza will also continue, as will the transfer of humanitarian aid to the Strip's residents.
The UN resolution "Stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable, and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza." However, the text only requires Israel to fully withdraw from the Strip after a complete ceasefire goes into effect in the area.
Meanwhile, the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs convened in Tel Aviv on Friday to discuss the operation in Gaza. Ministers were briefed by senior security officials on the recent talks the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, Amos Gilad held with Egyptian officials in Cairo.
Egypt and France's ceasefire proposal also seems to be headed towards an impasse due the disagreement with Israel over security along the Gaza-Egypt border.
Permission to boost military presence
Egypt is opposed to the deployment of an international force in its territory, but told the European Union it would be willing to help prevent the weapons smuggling into Gaza. Israel will reject any agreement that does not guarantee the complete cessation of the arms smuggling via the underground tunnels along the Philadelphi Route.
Ynet's military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai explained that there are several proposals for blocking the Philadelphi Route. One of them is to build a fence west of Rafah and along the border that would prevent the smuggling of weapons from Sinai to Rafah. Another means is the detection of tunnel openings on the Egyptian side of Rafah with the aid of American equipment and professionals, and the third means is better monitoring of what goes on in the Sinai and in sea routes leading to Egypt.
At this time, the Egyptians do not agree to any one of these means, and are merely asking for permission to boost their military and police presence along the border with Israel – a request that Jerusalem hesitates to agree to because of the long-range implications of such move, Ben-Yishai said.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Friday that Israel's Operation Cast Lead will proceed, despite the UN Security Council's resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
In an announcement published following the cabinet meeting on the matter, Olmert said, "The rocket attacks this morning on the residents of the south only prove that the UN's resolution is not practical and will not be upheld by the Palestinian murder organizations."
The prime minister added that "Israel has never allowed any outside source to determine its right to defend its citizens. The IDF will continue to act to defend the citizens of Israel and carry out the missions laid before it in the operation".