At start of weekly cabinet meeting, prime minister says Israel regrets 'tragic incident which left a mother and her four children dead.' He stresses, however, that 'we are also sorry for our own children, who have been getting hurt for many years now'
Roni Sofer Published: 04.29.08, 10:44 / Israel News
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday expressed his regret over Monday's Israel Defense Forces strike in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, which left six civilians dead.
At the start of the weekly government meeting, Olmert said, "I would like to express my deep regret, on behalf of the Israeli government and the State of Israel, over the tragic incident in which a mother and her four children were killed in Beit Hanoun."
He added, however, that "we are also sorry for our own children, who have been getting hurt for many years now, including the child whose leg was amputated several weeks ago.
"We regret the fact that civilians are being hurt here, and we regret the fact that Hamas is operating from within populated area, exposing them to outcomes we do not intend to reach."
Olmert stressed that the IDF investigation into the incident continues. On Monday evening, the army appointed a colonel to reenact the incident and reach accurate conclusions.
The IDF is sticking to its version that the family members were hurt as a result of an explosion which was caused by an explosive device or explosives carried by a cell of gunmen attacked from the air.
Addressing the Palestinian rockets fired into Israel over the past 24 hours, the prime minister said, "Throughout the morning hours the Qassam fire towards southern Israel continued, with one of the rockets directly hitting a house.
"Yesterday, 18 rockets were fired at the Gaza vicinity, and another house in Sderot sustained a direct hit. Luckily, not one was injured."
Olmert went on to address a possible truce mediated by Egypt, saying clearly that "I hope the terror organizations' brutal fighting will cease. I regret the fact that it continues.
"I believe our regret is more real, sincere and painful than the regret of the terror organizations we are facing. But as long as the terror organizations fire at the south's residents, the IDF will continue to operate against them."
Boim: Some civilians involved in terror
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also addressed the situation on the southern front Tuesday morning. "Israel is in a state of conflict with Hamas, rather than in a hudna (ceasefire)," he said while touring the security fence route in Beit Arieh, near the West Bank.
"Hamas is responsible for everything happening in the Gaza Strip. The operations also put civilians in danger. We are not happy when civilians are hurt, but view Hamas as the one to blame," he added.
Other ministers also referred to the issue during the cabinet meeting. "Hamas is using the children and the families as a human shield, but war is war and terror is terror," said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai.
"Although we do not wish to hurt innocent people, but unfortunately this happens. We must improve our PR efforts to present Israel in a better way."
Housing and Construction Minister Ze'ev Boim said, "Israel must continue to develop means which will distinguish between involved and uninvolved populations. We must remember that not all the civilian population is uninvolved. The families in Beit Hanoun allow people carrying weapons to walk about between their houses and near their children."
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit wondered, "Aren't children being hurt here? Arenít we in a state of war with Hamas? Every night children are injured here. We are at war and have no other way but to fight Hamas. I object to a ceasefire with Hamas which will allow them to continue smuggling weapons."