Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the goal of the Cast Lead Operation is to completely terminate rocket shelling of Israel by Palestinian combatants. He warned that the combat activities will continue and even expand in need. The pretext for the IDF operation was the truce violation by HAMAS on December 19. The territory of Israel was shelled for several days from Gaza.
"The operation will go on as long as it is necessary. I do not want you to have any illusions. It will not be easy and fast, but we should arm ourselves with patience because the war on terror is a heavy and long war”, said Ehud Barak speaking to journalists.
According to mass media, the day before Israel called to the colors 6,500 reservists and as reported by eyewitnesses started concentrating armored vehicles at the border of the Gaza Strip to involve them in operations after the air phase ends and ground phase starts.
In turn, Palestinians respond with rocket and mortar shelling of Israeli areas adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
According to the latest data the Israeli air strikes have resulted in more that 300 killed and about 1,500 wounded.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev instructed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EMERCOM Head Sergey Shoigu to render assistance to Russian citizens residing in the territory of the Palestinian Autonomy, and even evacuate them in need.
The Russian Embassy to Israel has already started making lists of compatriots for possible evacuation from the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Israel expects to gain support and understanding of the world community.
"Until now, we showed self-restraint but today we have no other option but the military operation. Israel relies on support and understanding of the world community in its war on terror and promotion of interests of those who wants that the forces of peace determine the environment in the region”, said Israeli Foreign Minister Ztipi Livni.
Livni said that the Israeli side is ready for a peace dialogue with the Palestine National Administration and pointed out that Israel will take measures “to prevent humanitarian crisis in the enclave populated by 1.5 million people and minimize harm to civilians”.
In turn, the Gaza authorities urged the world community to exert pressure on Israel and make it stop the military operation.
On the night from Saturday to Sunday the UN Security Council held an urgent meeting to approve a joint statement on the Middle East basing on the proposals of the Russian delegation.
The UN SecCon joint statement urges the Israeli and Palestinian sides to cease fire and demands to provide for an access for humanitarian aid to Gaza. The SecCon members also emphasize that it is necessary to restore the truce in the region to provide for a possibility to look for options of political resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Besides, on Saturday, the League of Arab States (LAS) held an urgent LAS Council meeting in its Cairo HQ at the level of permanent representatives.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) also held an urgent meeting of its Executive Committee. OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu condemned “the barbarous actions of Israel against unarmed civil population of the Gaza Strip” and classified the bombardment of Gaza as “a war crime”.
The OIC is the largest and most respectful official government Muslim international organization. Currently it includes 57 states with a population of more than 1.2 billion people.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemned the actions of the Israeli Air Force. “The Secretary General is deeply concerned over the gross violence and bloodshed in Gaza as well as on-going violence in Southern Israel”, says a UN statement.
Ban Ki Mood described the air strikes of Israel as “excessive use of force” and urged for immediate cease fire between the conflicting sides.
Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), called for immediate cease fire in the Gaza Strip and maximum restraint.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the parties to solve the problems in the region through negotiations.
"Moscow considers it necessary to immediately stop the large-scale military actions against the Gaza Strip that have already led to significant casualties and suffering among the Palestinian civilian population. At the same time we call on the Hamas leadership to end rocket attacks on Israeli territory. We are convinced that the most urgent thing now is to stop the armed confrontation, restore the lull and release civilians on both sides from horror and pain”, says a statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Besides, on Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the situation in the Middle East with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The Russian Minister urged to stop violence in the Gaza Strip and allow humanitarian cargoes into Gaza.
“The conversation was fully dedicated to the situation in the Gaza Strip. There was reaffirmed on our side the position of Russia in favor of an immediate cessation of military actions in Gaza, which would enable assuring the safety of the civilian population in southern Israel, “ said a press-release of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Earlier Sergey Lavrov had a telephone talk with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abdoul Gheit. The Russian Minister said that Moscow “ in coordination with regional parties will continue energetically to seek cessation of bloodshed and military confrontation” in the Middle East.
The USA urged Israel to prevent victims among civilians. At the same time HAMAS must stop rocketing of the Israeli territory, said by a spokesman of the US administration.
Great Britain urged Israel to display self-restraint in air strikes in the Gaza Strip and condemned the response fire by Palestinians.
"We are deeply concerned over the news on killed and wounded civilians in the Gaza Strip due to the recent Israeli air strikes”, said a spokesman of the British Foreign Office. “We understand the obligation of the Israeli government to protect its population but we urge to display maximum restraint to avoid new victims among civilians”, he added.
France demanded immediately stop rocketing of Israel from the Gaza Strip and Israeli bombardments of Palestinian territories. French President Nikolas Sarkozy expressed his concern over escalation of violence in Southern Israel and Gaza Strip. He condemned irresponsive provocations that led to this situation and “disproportional use of force”, says a distributed press-release.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini condemned “unjustified” launches of Qassam rockets by HAMAS combatants to the territory of Israel. At the same time he urged Israel to take into account rather complicated situation in the Gaza Strip” and “save innocent lives” “when exercising its right for self-defense”.
Syria called the Israel’s actions “a dirty crime and real policy of terror against the civil population”. “Damascus condemns this crime and demands from the Arab world and entire world community to use all available means to exert pressure on Israel and make it immediately stop bombardment of the Gaza Strip and open all checkpoints to deliver humanitarian and medical aid to the people and evacuate wounded and injured”, says a press-release issued by the Syrian Foreign Ministry.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Adoul Gheit urged Russia, the USA and France to exert pressure on Israel to terminate the violence in Gaza. He reminded that Russia, the USA and France are the permanent members of the US Security Council and also members of the Middle-East Settlement Mediators’ “Quartet”.
King of Saudi Arabia Abdallah bin Abdel Aziz sharply condemned the Israeli military action against the Palestinian people and urged the world community to take affective measures to protect lives of innocent civilians.
Iran claimed that the Israel’s aggression against the Gaza Strip is a result of Palestinian problem ignorance by the world community.
The Lebanese Government also condemned “the cruel aggression of Israel conducted in the eyes of the whole world” against Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.
King of Jordan Adallah the Second urged the world community “to assume legal and moral responsibility for the Palestinian people and exert pressure on Israel to make it stop the air strikes on Gaza”.