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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 00:50 GMT
Full text: Sharon's address
Ariel Sharon
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed the nation as the army launched attacks in Gaza and the West Bank, in retaliation for Palestinian suicide attacks that killed at least 25 people at the weekend. Below is the full text of his speech:

"Citizens of Israel, first of all I would like to send from here, in my name and on behalf of the Israeli Government, my condolences to the families of the murdered victims. May God avenge their deaths, and wishes for a speedy recovery to the many wounded who are still in various hospitals throughout the country.

"I returned today from the United States after holding talks with President George Bush. The president asked me to convey to the people in Israel his deep sorrow and sincere condolences.

The purpose of this war of terror is to kick us out of here

"The president told me that the United States is a true partner and friend of the state of Israel. In times of peace as well as today, in times of war against terror, the United States and Israel stand together.

"Citizens of Israel, we have fought many wars and we have won them all. We bested our enemies and we made peace. We held the sword and we made the wilderness and desert bloom. We built cities, we built industry and we developed agriculture.

"We turned the state of Israel into an example and a symbol to many countries in the world. We continue this endeavour every day. This endeavour will never stop.

"A war has been imposed on us, a war of terror, a war that claims victims in our midst every day; a war of terror, which is being waged systematically, in an organised fashion, and with orderly guidance from above.

"If you ask what is the purpose of this war, I will tell you. The purpose of this war of terror, the purpose of the terrorists, their assistants and dispatchers, the purpose of he who allows them to operate quietly and without disruption, is to kick us out of here.

The people here are stronger and our spirit of resistance is more steadfast than anything they ever imagined

"Their purpose is to bring us to total despair, to the loss of hope, to the loss of the national vision which leads us to be a free nation in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.

"Citizens of Israel, this will not happen. There is no other people in the world that would have shown such maturity and resilience. I am proud to be a part of this people. I am aware of the fact that in other aspects of our life we are also facing difficulties, and there too, we are showing fortitude and strength.

"They have already realised that they won't succeed. They have already realised that the people here are stronger and that our spirit of resistance is more steadfast than anything they ever imagined.

"Therefore, they continue to slaughter children, teenagers, women and men - citizens of Israel and citizens of other nationalities, human beings - only for the sake of killing, only for the sake of murdering.

"I tell you from here, from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the state of Israel, united Jerusalem, I tell you and all those who hear me today in the whole world: whoever rises to kill us, his blood will be upon his head.

Arafat is responsible for everything that is happening here

"Just as the United States, under the courageous leadership of President Bush, has been acting in its war against world terrorism, using all its might against terror, so will we act, with full force and determination, with all the means we used to date and with new means at our disposal.

"Don't be taken in by false prophecies and don't be deluded by promises of immediate results. This struggle won't be easy, this struggle won't be short, but we will win.

"Israel doesn't start wars. This war of terror, just like wars in the past, was forced on us. We know who forced it on us, we know who is responsible - Arafat is responsible for everything that is happening here.

"Arafat made his strategic choice when he chose a strategy of terror. When he chose to attempt to attain political achievements by means of murder, when he chose to allow the merciless slaughter of innocent civilians, Arafat chose the path of terror.

"For a long time the world didn't catch on to Arafat's nature, but a significant change has occurred in recent times. There is more understanding towards our position, and the true Arafat is being discovered by all.

The Palestinians must know that the current situation, to which Arafat brought us, harms them first and foremost

"Arafat is the biggest obstacle to peace and to stability in the Middle East. That was the case in the past, and we also see it today, at present, and I am sorry to say it, probably in the future as well.

"However, Arafat won't succeed in fooling the government I head. This time Arafat won't manage to fool us.

"The Palestinians must know that the current situation, to which Arafat brought us, harms them first and foremost.

"I tell you now, we will hunt down those responsible for terror, the perpetrators and their assistants. We will hunt them down until we catch them, and they will pay the price.

"Today, immediately upon my return, I summoned an urgent security consultation of all the heads of the defence establishment. In a few minutes the cabinet will hold a special meeting.

"The cabinet will meet in order to make decisions on expanding the ways to deal with the terrorism. This is not the place to mention the ways we will discuss. I just believe that the decisions we must make today require a special meeting of the cabinet plenum.

"The government I head is a unity government. We are in a time of emergency, and the importance of the unity government - which represents almost the entire Israeli public - is supreme at this time. Together we will stand up to all the challenges ahead of us. Thank you very much."

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