Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday rejected an European Union (EU) request for a 48- hour ceasefire in Gaza Strip, vowing to push ahead the offensive till security is restored to the south.
In new defiance of the international pressure, Olmert told visiting EU foreign ministers that any ceasefire agreement must force Hamas to end its incessant rocket attacks on Israel. Local news service quoted him as saying that "we demand action that will bring security to the residents of Israel's south."
Referring to the increasing range of the rockets fired by Gazan militants, Olmert stressed that "the most important thing from our standpoint is to stop the smuggling and the strengthening of Hamas. "
Meanwhile, the premier called on the delegation, led by Czech Republic's Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, to support a US- led regional initiative that would see Egypt take control over the Philadelphi Corridor, a 14-km frontier with the strip, and prevent arms smuggling into Gaza.
The EU delegation met on Monday with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who also turned down their call for an immediate ceasefire, saying that Israel has to "change the equation" in which Hamas fires at Israel and Israel responds with restraint.
From now on, "when Israel is being targeted, Israel is going to retaliate," said the strong premiership contender in the February 10 general election.
Late Tuesday night, Olmert told visiting French Present Nicolas Sarkozy that the Israeli operation is not aimed to eliminate Hamas, but to bring lull to its southern land. Analysts have said that Israel's ultimate goal is to reach a lasting ceasefire on more favorable conditions.
While Israel headed off the EU efforts, it is reportedly garnering support for a proposal by the United States, its staunch ally, which is based on Israel's three main demands: an end to attacks from Gaza, international supervision of any truce and a halt to Hamas rearming.
(Xinhua News Agency January 6, 2009)