Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Thursday the Israeli incursion into the northern Gaza Strip was a "necessary step".
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would continue to act resolutely against Palestinian militants, said Peretz in a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and security officials.
He said that Israel would withdraw from Gaza if an abducted soldier was released and the Palestinian rocket attacks ceased.
"Return Gilad alive and stop the rocket launches, and we will return our soldiers to their bases," said Peretz. "We have no interest to sink in the Gaza swamp."
Meanwhile, the defense minister stressed that Israel had done its best to prevent hurting innocent Palestinians.
At least nine Palestinians were killed in airstrike and gunbattle
following the start of an Israeli incursion in northern Gaza on Thursday in a bid to crack down on Qassam rocket attacks targeting Israeli cities in the proximity of Gaza.