Olmert Defends Israeli Offensive in Gaza, Calls It 'Necessary'

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he was saddened by civilian deaths in Gaza but that Hamas militants left Israel no choice.

Olmert says that he cried when a Palestinian doctor lost his three daughters to Israeli fire, an incident that was widely covered in Israel.

But in an interview published Friday in the daily Maariv, Olmert says he can't blame soldiers who hurt or killed civilians by mistake in combat.

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Olmert told the paper that the operation was necessary because of incessant rocket fire at Israeli civilians.

Olmert also said that his peace moves with the Palestinians during his time in office had left the sides "very close to reaching agreements."

Olmert is set to leave office after a national election on Feb. 10.