ISRAEL: “Ceasefire? Nah…not until we’re done takin’ out the garbage”

Israeli officials say Israel is ‘not interested’ in ceasefire yet, as they still have many Hamas targets to hit. Besides, a ceasefire at this time only gives Hamas a chance to reload.

Times of Israel  Israeli officials said Saturday evening that Jerusalem is not currently interested in a ceasefire in the four-day conflict with Hamas, adding that the IDF’s campaign might be expanded and could continue for weeks, if necessary. Operation Pillar of Defense would only end after Hamas had been dealt a serious blow, they vowed, as the fourth day of the offensive came to an end.

Some analysts, by contrast, said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several of his top ministers would not in fact be opposed to a rapid halt to the campaign if the other side were to commit itself to a ceasefire.

“In parallel to the military effort, there is a diplomatic effort [to stop the rocket fire on Israel],” an Israeli government official told The Times of Israel on Saturday evening. “But the operation will continue until we can be sure that the people of Israel will no longer live under constant fear of rockets — and that goal will be achieved, one way or another.”

The IDF’s OC Southern Command Tal Russo said earlier Saturday that Israel had delivered a serious blow to Hamas’s rocket infrastructure — and wiped out much of its long-range rocket capacity — but added that the IDF still had many targets left to hit. Hamas, he said, had built up “an impressive” arsenal.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Cairo on Saturday, where he met with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Hamas political chief Haled Mashaal in an effort to broker a ceasefire. Egypt is trying to convince Hamas to sign on to a proposal for a temporary end to the rocket fire, but Hamas is currently unwilling to discuss a cease-fire, officials said. Erdogan was trying to mediate between the two sides, but without tangible success thus far.

Egyptian defense officials have had “primary” contact with their Israeli counterparts, but so far Cairo has not engaged Israel on the political and diplomatic level, a Foreign Ministry official told The Times of Israel. “Israel will go ahead [with the military offensive] as long as there’s massive rocket fire from Gaza. It’s not possible to stop unilaterally, while rockets are flying at our towns.”

While Hamas was probably interested in a ceasefire, the Israeli government is keen to continue striking at terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, according to a government official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Hamas probably wants a ceasefire by now. They want a time out — so that they can rest a bit, and then continue to shoot rockets at us next week. Israel is not interested in that.” “We hope to come out of this operation with a new reality — that people in the south will no longer live with constant rocket attacks.”

Operation Pillar of Defense has three main goals: bringing quiet to the south, establishing Israeli deterrence, and eradicating the long-range missile arsenal of Gaza terror groups, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Saturday. “The only way to live here in peace and security is to create a real deterrent by causing an overwhelming response, so that they don’t test us again,” he said Saturday. 

If the IDF found it necessary to launch a wide-scale ground operation into Gaza, “it cannot be stopped in the middle; it needs to go all the way,” he said. The foreign minister and other top Israeli ministers are “absolutely resolute” to continue and even intensify Operation Pillar of Defense, according to a source close to Liberman.

“They are convinced that this can’t just be another Operation Cast Lead, where we only do what’s necessary and then, after three or six months, Hamas rearms itself and we have the same problem,” the source told The Times of Israel. “This has got to stop. We can’t have a million of our citizens under fire.”

Along with the US, Britain, Germany, Canada and several other countries have pinned primary blame on Hamas, the officials noted. The rocket that on Friday night reached the greater Jerusalem area “really takes the mask off Hamas’s face, if anyone still had any illusions,” this official added. “They fired an inexact weapon into city with hundred of thousands of residents, with many holy sites important to three world religions. Netanyahu told the leaders that no country in the world would agree to a situation in which its population lives under a constant missile threat.