Israeli leaders made clear this week that a ceasefire in Gaza is only possible if Hamas and its allied terror groups first halt all attacks on Israel. Only then will Israel stop firing.
To agree to an end to hostilities in any other order would mean Hamas wins. That was the conclusion reached at an emergency session of Israel's National Security Council on Wednesday, where top government ministers and military commanders rejected a temporary ceasefire proposal by France.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is scheduled to visit Israel on Monday to push the idea of Israel halting its assault on Gaza for 48 hours to give Hamas a chance to stop firing rockets while saving face among Palestinians.
Gaza-based Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh indicated that the Israeli assessment is accurate when he announced his readiness for a ceasefire if Israel stops attacking, and then told throngs of supporters that victory is imminent.
Hamas is ready to "talk about all issues" the moment Israel stops attacking the terror group and throws open the gates of Gaza to unhindered traffic, Haniyeh said in a televised address on Wednesday night.
Haniyeh added that "Allah willing, victory will be ours, because [the people of Gaza] stand firm, the resistance stands firm and because the occupation will fail to achieve anything."
While much of the international community got behind the Hamas version of how a ceasefire must be reached, Washington continued to stand behind Israeli demands.
"President Bush thinks that Hamas needs to stop firing rockets, and that is what will be the first step in a ceasefire," White House Spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters after Bush spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday.
Furthermore, Johndroe insisted that as far as the US is concerned, Israel will not be pressured to enter any ceasefire unless Hamas agrees "not only to stop firing rockets now but to not fire any rockets in the future, [and to] stop smuggling weapons in, so they don't even have the ability to fire rockets."
Later in the day, the US shot down a legally binding and enforceable resolution introduced to the UN Security Council demanding that Israel immediately halt its assault on Gaza. The Libyan-sponsored resolution made no demand whatsoever on Hamas to halt its aggression against Israel.
In the meantime, Israeli aircraft targeted some 20 Hamas targets across Gaza on Thursday, while ground forces remained massed on the Gaza border waiting for orders to invade.
Among those killed in the Israeli strikes was a top Hamas political figure who had recently advocated a resumption of suicide bomb attacks against Israelis.
Gaza-based terrorists also continued their assault on southern Israel, firing at least 30 missiles at the region's largest cities, as well as many smaller towns.