"We are fighting against murderous terrorists and the war will not stop until we clear them from the border. The fighting continues. There is no ceasefire and there will not be any ceasefire in the coming days," said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday, to the sound of thunderous applause from the Israeli audience.
He said that the ongoing Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which has claimed over 700 Lebanese lives so far, will not cease, despite growing international condemnation.
Olmert added that the war would only end when the rockets fired by Hezbollah from Lebanon into northern Israel cease and the two Israel soldiers captured by Hezbollah while patrolling on the Lebanese border on July 12 are returned.
"We will stop the war when the [rocket] threat is removed…, our captive soldiers return home in peace, and you are able to live in safety and security," Olmert said, addressing the mayors of northern Israeli towns. 18 Israeli civilians have been killed by the over 1500 rockets fired by Hezbollah in the 20-day old conflict, and 33 Israeli soldiers have died in clashes with Hezbollah inside Lebanon. The Hezbollah-fired rockets, known as ‘Katyushas’, are crude weapons with little aiming capability, and are generally fired ‘blind’ by Hezbollah fighters across the border into Israel. 300,000 Israelis have fled to bomb shelters or moved south.
In Lebanon, over 750,000 people have been displaced by the Israeli invasion, many of them staying in makeshift shelters in parking garages and shopping centers. With the massive number of civilian casualties (the most conservative estimates put the number of civilians at 2/3 of the over 700 casualties), the Hezbollah resistance group — the only group to have successfully beaten the Israeli army, pushing them back across the Lebanon-Israel border in 2000, has announced that they are receiving many new recruits from among the survivors.
"We could not let the terror organization on our border get stronger, let them get more missiles," said Olmert on Monday. "If we had held off, the day would have arrived soon when they would have caused unprecedented damage."
He said that even as he spoke, Israeli forces continued fighting in the air, from the sea and on the ground in Lebanon. Violating a self-declared ’48 hour pause’ of airstrikes made last night after 56 bodies of civilians, 38 of them children, were retrieved from an Israeli airstrike Sunday, Israeli forces have continued to bombard Lebanon throughout the day on Monday.
"We are determined to succeed in this struggle," continued Olmert. "We will not give up on our goal to live a life free of terror."
"This is a unique opportunity to change the rules in Lebanon."