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Olmert to Israelis: Unite around Gaza operation

(JTA) — No country should have to live under constant threat of missile barrages, Ehud Olmert said in an address to Israelis.

In his speech Saturday night, Israel’s prime minister, flanked by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, asked the Israeli public to unite around the IDF operation that began in Gaza earlier in the day.

"The lives of our citizens are not forfeit," Olmert said.  "In recent days, it became clear that Hamas is bent on conflict. Whoever heard Hamas’ statements understood that they decided to increase attacks on the residents of Israel by firing rockets and mortars indiscriminately. In such a situation we had no alternative but to respond. We do not rejoice in battle but neither will we be deterred from it."

Olmert warned that the number of missiles may increase in the near future and could reach more distant communities than ever before. He also said that his heart went out to the family of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Palestinian militants in 2006 and was taken to Gaza.

The prime minister warned neighboring countries not to use the Gaza operation as an excuse to launch their own attacks on the Jewish state. On Sunday, Israeli warplanes reportedly flew over southern Lebanon as a warning to the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah.

"Israel is currently focusing on striking at the terrorist organizations that are operating to undermine stability in the entire region. I hope that no other element in the region will think that while Israel is fighting in the south, that it is inattentive to what is happening in other areas," Olmert warned. "We will not hesitate to respond to any aggression against us."

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