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Israel's prime minister has rejected appeals by his defense and foreign
Israel's prime minister has rejected appeals by his defense and foreign ministers for an immediate halt to the country's military operations in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli newspaper reported on Monday.

According to a source quoted in Haaretz, the issue of halting Israel's military action was discussed on Sunday during a meeting between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The prime minister turned them down, saying that to stop the operation now "would mean throwing away existing opportunities," the newspaper reported.

Olmert and Barak wish to reach a long-term agreement for peace in the region with the help of the United States and Egypt; however, Livni is for an immediate ceasefire without additional agreements among the three states.

"The pressure that we are putting on Hamas in the Gaza Strip should not be weakened. Those who relay weakness get 12 seconds of approval from the international community but do not succeed in any fundamental changes," Haaretz quoted the prime minister as saying.

Livni maintained that continuing the military operations would damage efforts to hold Hamas at bay and that Israel would suffer much more diplomatic harm on the global stage. Barak, on the other hand, was against marching Israeli troops into heavily populated areas in Gaza, according to the source.

Last week, the prime minister dismissed UN Security Council's Resolution 1860, which called for an immediate ceasefire between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

According to the source, Israel's prime minister plans to raise the issue of continuing military operations in the Gaza Strip with the security cabinet in order to get majority support from key ministers and security chiefs.

The Palestinian Health Ministry has announced that at least 890 Palestinians, including 257 children and 68 women, have been killed and another 4,000 wounded in the Israeli assault on Gaza, which started with coordinated airstrikes on December 27.

Israel's casualties are estimated at 13 people, including 10 military personnel.


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