Jan. 4, 2009 -- Israeli President Shimon Peres rejected this morning international calls for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip after nine days of Israeli bombing and the invasion of ground forces Saturday evening.
"If there is somebody [who] can stop terror with a different strategy, we shall accept it. We shall not accept the idea that Hamas will continue to fire and we shall declare a cease-fire. It does not make any sense," Peres said in an exclusive "This Week" interview with George Stephanopoulos.
Heavy fighting in Gaza continued Sunday after thousands of Israeli ground troops moved into the area overnight.
"We don't intend neither to occupy Gaza nor to crush Hamas, but to crush terror. And Hamas needs a real and serious lesson. They are now getting it," Peres said. Almost 500 Palestinians have been reported killed and about 2,400 wounded since air strikes began last week. But that has not stopped Hamas from firing rockets into Israel, killing four and injuring other Israelis.
"They did things which are unprecedented in the history even of terror," Peres said. "They made mosques into headquarters. They put in bombs in the kindergartens, in their own homes. They are hiding in hospitals. They are shooting endlessly for no reason, for no purpose, without any explanation and without any hope. They are now beginning to feel the weight of their mistakes."
In response to the ongoing Israeli offensive, Hamas has vowed to make Gaza a "graveyard" for Israeli forces.
When asked how Gaza should be governed and how he intends to end rocket and mortar attacks from the area without occupying Gaza over the long-term, Peres said that "[Hamas] should come under the government of the Palestinian elected authority."
"Gaza is part of the Palestinian Authority. The present Hamas group revolted against their own authority. The head of the authority, the president of the Palestinian people, Mr. [Mahmoud] Abbas, was duly elected by 62 percent," Peres explained. "We are not going to mix-in in their politics, but we have decided not to permit [them] to shoot against us. We have the means. Nobody else has the means. When they will stop terror, then we shall return to normal life."
Peres went on to argue that Hamas began its assault on Israelis in response to orders from Iran.
"They cannot explain why are they shooting, what for are they shooting, and they cannot hide that they are acting by orders from Iran," he said. "Iran has two satellites in the Middle East, the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. They are serving a foreign country at the cost of their own security and lives of their own children and own people."
Peres also addressed reports that Hamas has eased its demands for a cease-fire with Israel.
"Yes...They made the suggestion to have a cease-fire and open the passages. To open the passages without control means to enable them to bring in more rockets, more missiles, more weapons, more supply from Iran," he said. "Doesn't make any sense that we should do it."