"The cabinet's position from the first moment was that if the south's residents are fired on, our response will naturally be disproportionate," he said.
The ministers were scheduled to be briefed by the Military intelligence chief and other defense officials on the situation in Gaza and on the ways of action formed by the narrow forum and the National-Security Cabinet.
"Two weeks have passed since Israel decided to hold its fire in the Gaza Strip, setting two basic conditions: An immediate halt to the shooting, and preventing the smuggling of weapons to the terror organizations through the Philadelphi Route.
"These were the two conditions for ceasing the fighting, and in the face of these conditions we knew there was a significant chance that Hamas would continue firing."
Rocket which landed between kindergartens (Photo: Roy Idan)
According to the prime minister, "We shall not return to the rules of the game the terror organizations have been trying to dictate, and we won’t be dragged into an unstoppable shooting war.
"The situation today is that the rocket fire continues, and this stops the State of Israel from moving forward. I've instructed the defense minister to order the military officials to prepare for an Israeli response. We won’t warn the terror organizations in advance when and how we plan to respond, but Israel will respond when and where and in the manner it chooses," he added.
According to information presented to the government ministers, the rocket launching cells belong to Hamas and the "Shuhada al-Aqsa" cells, which are careful not to claim public responsibility for fear of an Israeli response.
Olmert clarified in closed forums before the cabinet meeting that Israel views Hamas as fully responsible for the rocket fire. "It's the only landlord in the Gaza Strip. It's responsible and we will act against it."
Addressing the issue of the lawsuit filed against Israeli security officials in Spain, the prime minister said, "Israel's officers who fulfilled their duties in order to defend Israel's citizens, and are now subject to prosecutions due to wrongful actions and international pacts, will be fully protected by the Israeli government.
"The lawsuits like the one filed in Madrid are an expression of double morals of elements who turned a blind eye for years to the ongoing attacks on the State of Israel."
Livni vs. BarakAhead of the meeting, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called on the government to respond forcibly to the Palestinian fire. Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised a response, but clarified that Israel would use judgment.
"During election season there is a march of chattering by people who have never held a weapon in their hand and don’t understand the conditions we must operate under," said Barak.
Minister Livni said, "We mustn't sign arrangements with Hamas, but rather use force against this organization. Israel will respond whether the Qassam causes injuries or not, and this is how I will act as prime minister as well. We must use force, and a lot of force. As far as I'm concerned, there's no need to take our time. We need a response, immediately. We mustn't wait."
Minister Barak added, "Hamas suffered a harsh blow and will suffer once again. During election season everyone wants to make headlines, but the decision must be made by the professional ranks."
Sunday morning saw three Qassam rockets and four mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip into the western Negev. The rockets were launched at around 6:50 am. One landed in the Sdot Negev Regional Council and the other two hit the Eshkol Regional Council, one of them landing between two kindergartens.
About two hours later, Palestinian gunmen fired at an IDF force near the border fence in the Kissufim area. The soldiers fired back. There were no injuries in all incidents.
On Saturday morning, a Grad rocket landed in an open area south of Ashkelon. There were no injuries in this incident as well.