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Middle East - interview

Weeks of conflict possible and ground war not ruled out, say Israeli officials

Article published on the 2008-12-30 Latest update 2008-12-31 10:39 TU

Students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem support the offensive.(Photo: Reuters)

Students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem support the offensive.
(Photo: Reuters)

After four days of air raids on the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government says that it may launch a ground war and will carry on until Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, "decide to cease firing", according to a government spokesperson.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday that the strikes on Gaza are “the first of several stages” agreed by the country’s security cabinet to target Hamas.

Official say that Hamas has left them little choice.

“They left us no alternative, the country has a responsibility for the defence of its civilians, and that is what Israel is doing at the moment,” said Daniel Seaman, an Israeli government spokesperson.

Comment: Daniel Seaman, director of the Israeli government press office

30/12/2008 by Judith Prescott

“They will understand, that it is not beneficial to them and their population to attack the state of Israel, simple as that, the same as any country in the world would do,” Seaman told RFI.

Seaman claimed that civilian casualties are inevitable in such conflicts.

“During World War Two, there were more German civilians killed than British or Americans,” he said.

Seaman says that the army may launch a ground offensive.

"If necessary that is what is going to happen," he says. "At the moment we are trying to refrain from that, hoping that the Hamas will cease firing but, if they continue to fire and if it will be necessary to stop the firing against Israel, we'll also engage ground troops."

And attacks on Hamas could go on for weeks, according to Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai.

“We are ready for a prolonged conflict and for weeks of combat,” he announced on public radio.

“We have to bring about a fundamental change to the security situation in the south of Israel,” he said.

At least 360 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli attacks began on Saturday.