JERUSALEM, AP – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday ruled out a prisoner swap with the Hamas militant group to win the release of a captured Israeli soldier.
He also said Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip is not aimed at toppling the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
“We have no particular desire to topple the Hamas government as a policy. We have a desire to stop terrorists from inflicting terror on the Israeli people,” Olmert told foreign reporters.
Israel invaded Gaza nearly two weeks ago after militants linked to the Palestinian government crossed the border and captured an Israeli soldier. Hamas militants have also been firing rockets into southern Israel.
Both the militants holding the soldier and Palestinian government leaders have called on Israel to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.
“Trading prisoners with a terrorist bloody organization such as Hamas is a major mistake that will cause a lot of damage to the future of the state of Israel,” Olmert told foreign reporters.
The Israeli invasion, arrests of Hamas Cabinet ministers and threats to assassinate the group’s top leaders have prompted accusations that Israel is trying to topple the democratically elected government.