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Olmert: Gaza operation still in first stage
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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that the Israeli military operation in Gaza Strip is "the first phase in a series of steps approved by the cabinet".

Olmert met with Israeli President Shimon Peres Tuesday morning to brief him on the most recent developments in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza region and the attendant political and security issues, according to the statement of Israeli Government Press Office.

Peres said that Hamas is the party responsible for creating the current situation in Gaza Strip.

"Israel is not fighting against the Palestinian population, only against the terror organization that has etched on its flag the continuation of violence and the undermining of regional stability," he said.

"There isn't a person in the world who understands what the goals of Hamas are and why they continue to fire rockets. The firing defies reason and logic, and it doesn't stand a chance," Peres continued.

The Cast Lead Operation continued early Tuesday, with at least 10 people killed and 40 others wounded when Israeli war planes bombed a series of targets in Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian reports.

After a meeting overnight Monday with Israel Defense Force Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and other heads of the security establishment, Olmert stressed that Israel would strike Hamas with an "iron fist" but would treat Gaza civilians with "kid gloves" in its humanitarian effort, local daily Jerusalem Post reported.

During the meeting, security officials said that the IDF had given telephone warnings to some 90,000 Gazans living near Hamas facilities targeted by the Israeli air force. They stressed that the sites were only bombed after civilians had left their homes.

(Xinhua News Agency December 30, 2008)


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