IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Wednesday that Israel is prepared to strike Hamas leaders when they emerge from hiding, and warned that the IDF would retaliate strongly if the terror organization resumes its attacks on Israel.
“Its commanders sit in their bunkers in hiding, and everywhere we can hit them, we will hit, if we want to,” he said on Wednesday, the second day of a three-day truce, during a press briefing near the Gaza Strip. “They will go outside when they please — if they do, they will see the extent of the damage to their fighters and the damage in the Gaza Strip, which unfortunately, is Hamas’s fault.”
“I hope this lesson will be internalized in the Gaza Strip, because we will not hesitate to continue to mobilize our forces as necessary to ensure the security of Israeli citizens,” he said.
The IDF’s top commander said that the responsibility for the civilian casualties lies with Hamas, which embedded its combat forces in civilian areas, and added the IDF had struck a significant blow to the terror organization.
“We aren’t done,” he said. “If there are incidents, we will respond to them.”
Gantz also urged the residents of the Gaza border towns to return home.
“I am convinced the residents can return to their houses, till their fields, live well here, just as it was before,” he said.
“Just as there was peace here before, it will be even quieter after [the operation],” Gantz asserted. “The IDF is not going anywhere. It remains to protect, to make breakthroughs, to seek the next challenges, and together with the citizens we will continue to enhance the security in this area.”
The IDF chief went on to assure the citizens of the south that better days were ahead of them.
“Indeed, there was a hot summer here,” Gantz said, referring to the tumultuous experiences of many in the south. “[But] autumn will come after. Rain will wash away the dust upon the tanks. The fields will turn green, and the south will redden, red in the positive sense of the word, anemones, flowers and stability will be here, and they will be here for very many years to come.”
As Israeli pundits begin to analyze the operation and question the interaction between the military and political leadership, Gantz took steps to stamp out any suggestion of a failure in communication.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.