For seven years, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in the south have been suffering from missiles being fired at them. Life in the south under missile barrages had become unbearable. Israel did everything in its power to fulfil the conditions of the calm in the south and enable normal life for its citizens. The quiet that we offered was met with shelling.

No country can countenance such a reality. The lives of our citizens are not forfeit. In recent days, it became clear that Hamas is bent on conflict. 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.

The operation in Gaza is designed, first and foremost, to bring about an improvement in the security reality for the residents of the south. This is liable to take time and each one of us must be patient so that we can complete the mission. We want to restore the quiet and the tranquility and give the residents of the south the ability to live the normal lives that every country provides its citizens.

On Thursday I made it clear to the residents of Gaza [in an interview on Al-Arabiya television] that we are not acting against them and that we have no intention of punishing them for the actions of Hamas. We will see to the needs of the population in Gaza and will do our utmost to prevent a humanitarian crisis that will impinge upon residents' lives.

Residents of Gaza, we are not your enemies and we are not fighting against you. This terrorist organization has brought disaster to two peoples. Israel is not fighting the Palestinian people but the Hamas terrorist organization that has taken upon itself to act against the residents of Israel. - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Prime Minister's Office)