Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a special session of Israel's Knesset on Monday that he intends to press forward with the war on Gaza's Hamas rulers.
Israeli tanks unload and line up
along the Gaza border:
As Israeli tanks continued to mass along the Gaza border and some 6,700 Israeli reserve soldiers were put on alert, Barak insisted that the Jewish state would expand its efforts against the threat facing its citizens as it sees fit, irrespective of international opinion.
Barak noted that Israel had given Hamas every opportunity to maintain the relative calm that had prevailed in and around Gaza over the past six months, and that as such the international community must now lay sole blame for the escalation in violence on the terrorists' shoulders.
"I would like to remind the world that Israel withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip more than three years ago. We gave a chance for a new reality, and all we've seen is the Hamas government firing rockets and missiles on our citizens and carrying out attacks against Israel," said Barak.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke at the session, reiterating his promise of unity for the duration of the war and urging Barak to expand its objectives to include toppling the Hamas regime.
"Our goal should be double - stopping the attacks on our cities and eliminating the threat of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip," said Netanyahu. "Stopping the attacks can be done within a short period of time, while eliminating the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza will entail toppling the Hamas rule over the Strip and uprooting the Iranian base there."
As the two men spoke, Hamas continued to rain down rockets on towns across southern Israel. An Israeli Arab was killed and at least 15 others were wounded when one rocket hit a construction site in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon.
Hamas threatened its own escalation of hostilities when one of its spokesmen told Ha'aretz that the terror group will target Barak and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for assassination.
Senior Hamas official Fatah Hamad also said his group will target members of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' regime in Ramallah and Egyptian political leaders. Hamas has accused both the Palestinian Authority and Egypt of collusion with Israel in its assault on Gaza.