AFP - Israel vowed on Saturday to keep up deadly air strikes on Hamas-run Gaza Strip for "as long as necessary," saying it has "no other option" than a military operation on the Palestinian enclave to stop rocket fire.
"The operation will go on and be intensified as long as necessary," Defence Minister Ehud Barak said after Saturday's attacks, which Gaza emergency services say killed nearly 200 Palestinians.
"The battle will be long and difficult, but the time has come to act and to fight," he said in a televised newsconference.
Barak said more than 150 Hamas fighters had been killed or wounded during the massive bombardment.
"We are not enthusiastic about the idea of confrontation, but we are ready for it. For months we have been preparing to hit hard at Hamas so that it stops its attacks against Israeli civilians," he said.
"This will not be easy and will take time. War against terror takes time," he said.
Massive Israeli air strikes, which saw some 60 warplanes bombard the overcrowded territory of 1.5 million people, killed 195 Palestinians, wounding some 300 others.
Speaking earlier to reporters, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that "Israeli citizens have been under the threat of daily attack from Gaza for years.
"Only this week -- hundreds of missiles and mortars shells were fired at Israeli civilian communities including the firing of 80 missiles on a single day.
"Until now we have shown restraint. But today there is no other option than a military operation. We need to protect our citizens from attack through a military response against the terror infrastructure in Gaza.
"This is the translation of our basic right to self defence."
"Israel expects the support and understanding of the international community, as it confronts terror, and advances the interest of all those who wish the forces of peace and co-existence to determine the agenda of this region."