Israel’s government has approved the call-up of tens of thousands of reservist soldiers, it was annnounced Saturday, almost simultaneously with the launch of a Gaza ground incursion aimed at halting rocket fire on Israel’s southern communities.
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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said in a statement that, in accordance with a secret cabinet discussion Friday, the government ordered the armed forces “to draft the necessary reservists, on a scale of tens of thousands of troops.”
The Gaza ground operation launched Saturday had actually been approved last week, but Olmert promised his ministers that when the time came to begin the offensive, it would first be brought for fresh approval by the security cabinet. On Thursday night, Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a meeting that lasted until 4 A.M., during which it was decided that that time had come.
On Friday afternoon, at around 2 P.M., the security cabinet convened at Olmert’s office at the Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv. The meeting was held in utmost secrecy, and the military censor even banned reports that the discussion had taken place.
As the cabinet debate dragged on, the two ministers from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party said that they would stay at the meeting despite the imminent onset of the Sabbath, as the discussion constituted “pikuah nefesh” (the saving of human life which allows Jews to break religious laws). Olmert told the two to go home, but to each leave a note with their votes on the issue of a ground operation.
In the voting, 10 ministers were in favor of the operation, while two – Haim Ramon of Kadima and Eli Yishai of Shas – abstained.
Last update – 00:03 04/01/2009
Barak Ravid Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters