Israel will not allow a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday as troops pushed deep into the Islamist Hamas-ruled enclave, AFP reported.
"Israel is not fighting against the Palestinian people in Gaza," Olmert said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.
"They are not our enemies. They too are victims of the deadly violence and the deadly oppression of the same terror organisation," he said, referring to the Hamas rulers of the enclave.
"We will not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop in the Gaza Strip. We will help supply food and medicine" for the territory, which Israel has kept virtually sealed off since Hamas took control in June 2007.
Olmert said the ground offensive Israel launched late on Saturday after a week-long aerial and naval bombing blitz of Hamas targets in Gaza was "unavoidable."
"I draw a lot of encouragement from the position of US President (George W.) Bush, who told me we must ensure that Hamas not only stops rocket fire, but also that it will not be able to resume it in the future," he said.