Friday, June 6, 2008

Olmert hints major Gaza operation is imminent

From Ha'aretz:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters on his plane bound for Israel on Thursday just prior to departure that "it would appear we are very close to a decisive crossroads in Gaza," intimating that a major military operation is in the offing.

When asked earlier by reporters accompanying him in Washington if the time had come for a large-scale Israeli ground offensive into Gaza, Olmert was noncommittal.

"We are not eager for a military operation," he said. "But we are not shying away from one."

"The way it looks now, we are closer to a military operation in Gaza than we are to any other type of [diplomatic] arrangement," the premier said. "We are close to a decisive crossroads in Gaza, both in terms of setting a timetable as well as pinpointing the exact problem. We have a real problem in Gaza, and I spoke about it throughout the course of all my talks in the U.S."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that the Israel Defense Forces would open a broad operation in the Gaza Strip before an Egyptian-mediated truce takes effect.

The defense minister, who has repeatedly threatened an invasion, spoke while touring Kibbutz Nir Oz, where a 51-year-old Israeli man was killed earlier in the day by a mortar shell fired from the nearby Gaza Strip.

"The military operation is closer than ever, and it will precede the cease-fire," Barak said, adding: "We are nearing the day of reckoning in the Gaza Strip, in which we will decide whether to go in the direction of an agreement of calm or a wide military operation."

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity under military guidelines, said most members of the Security Cabinet oppose a Gaza cease-fire now.
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