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Barak: Gaza operation aimed at changing security situation
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The aim of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Cast Lead Operation in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip was to change the political and security situation in south Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday.

"We are striving for a new reality in which there won't be activity from Gaza against Israeli civilians or our soldiers, a situation which will dramatically change the state of smuggling and in which quiet will prevail in the south," said the defense minister.

In remarks broadcast on Israeli radio stations, Barak told members of Israeli political-security cabinet that while Hamas has suffered great loss under Israel's air, sea and ground offensive, many of the military's goals had yet to be achieved.

"The operation is continuing as planned," he said. "Gaza is partially besieged and IDF forces have reached the targets assigned to them."

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

However, Palestinian sources said 538 people have been killed and over 2,500 injured since the start of the Israeli operation.

The defense minister defended IDF's ground incursion into Gaza, saying that any nation seeking to survive would have take the same action.

Israel would end its operation in Gaza "with an upper hand," said Barak, adding that Israel was engaged in diplomatic contacts with international officials regarding the operation.

The Cast Lead Operation, which started on Dec. 27, entered its tenth day on Monday, so far killing about 538 Palestinians. Since Saturday evening, the operation moved into its second stage, with IDF launching a large-scale ground incursion into Gaza.

Meanwhile, Palestinian militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets into Israel since the operation, killing four people on the Israeli side.

(Xinhua News Agency January 5, 2009)

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