The Security Cabinet voted Wednesday to reject a French proposal calling for a 48-hour ceasefire in Gaza. The ceasefire would allow Hamas to prove that it is ready for a truce by halting rocket fire, supporters said, but Hamas leaders warned Tuesday night that they would not stop firing rockets.
The two-day ceasefire was originally proposed on Monday by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni discussed the proposal at a lengthy conference Tuesday night.
During Wednesday's meeting, senior IDF officers presented video images of the fighting, including short film clips of airstrikes on underground weapons storehouses, a truck filled with missiles and weapons manufacturing labs. The officers also detailed the precautions they were taking to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, including warning approximately 100,000 before bombing nearby buildings.
Approximately 390 residents of Gaza have been killed since the operation began, roughly 40 of them civilians, the officers said. Hamas has claimed at least 200 of the dead as members of its armed forces.
Following the meeting, government spokesman Mark Regev explained that agreeing to a Gaza ceasefire would only allow Hamas and other terrorist groups to regroup and prepare for the next round of fighting. “The pressure on the Hamas military machine must continue,” he said.
Olmert said Israel would not stop counterterrorism operations in Gaza until seeing results. “We didn't start the operation in Gaza just to end it with rocket fire continuing as it did from the start,” he said. The Prime Minister blamed Hamas for the “Cast Lead” operation, saying the group had turned down a ceasefire offer from Israel and had chosen instead to fire rockets.
Israel “knew the price” when agreeing to a six-month ceasefire with Hamas earlier this year, Olmert continued. The government approved the ceasefire, despite the cost, in order to allow residents in southern Israel to return to normal lives, he stated. "We said to ourselves, 'Let's give it a try.' But Hamas violated the ceasefire."
Kadima Knesset Member Tzachi HaNegbi told Israel Radio on Wednesday that Israel's agreeing to the 6-month ceasefire was a mistake that the country is paying for now.