Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he would be responsible for Israel’s response to the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza, and that Israel would exact a price for its southern residents’ suffering at the time and place of its choosing.
In a meeting with heads of southern regional councils in Beersheba, Netanyahu acknowledged the need of Israeli citizens living near Gaza to feel safe, and said the government was responsible for the safety of Israel’s southern residents. “Whoever believes they can harm the daily lives of the residents of the south and not pay a heavy price is mistaken. I am responsible for choosing the right time to collect the highest price and so it shall be,” Netanyahu said.
Palestinian terrorists fired two rockets into southern Israel Tuesday afternoon, breaking a lull that lasted several hours and was credited to an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire. More than 160 rockets and mortars have fallen on Israel since Saturday afternoon.
More than 40 Israelis were reported lightly injured from the bombings, mostly suffering from shock and light shrapnel injuries.
Israel retaliated by firing on rocket-launching squads and terrorist infrastructures.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a security analysis with the IDF’s senior officers, and said the current episode of rocket fire from Gaza is not over, during a visit to the border with Gaza.
“Hamas and the other terrorist organizations are suffering as a result of intense strikes [by the IDF] in Gaza. But it is certainly not over and we will decide how and when to act if necessary. I do not want to address either timing or means [of operation]; it would not be right to provide this information to the other side,” Barak said, according to a statement from the Defense Ministry.
“We do not intend to allow – in any shape or form – the continued harming of the day to day life of our citizens. And we intend to reinforce the deterrence – and strengthen it – so that we are able to operate along the length of the border fence in a way that will ensure the security of all our soldiers who are serving around the Gaza Strip.”
Barak added that even if other Gaza terrorist organizations are shooting some of the rockets, that Israel holds Hamas, which is in charge of Gaza, responsible for all of the attacks.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Egyptian officials were trying to negotiate terms between his organization and Israel, Channel 10 reported. He thanked those acting against “the Zionist enemy,” and said the Palestinian factions would hold their fire if Israel did the same.
Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) called on the IDF to initiate targeted killings of Hamas leaders. Katz told Channel 2 news that since Hamas was responsible for the rocket fire, “its leaders must pay the price.”
Earlier in the day Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin visited residents of towns adjoining the Gaza Strip and said the people he spoke to felt “Israel had abandoned them.”
Israel must not constrain itself or limit its reaction out of fear missiles would strike cities in the center of the country, Rivlin told reporters. “The south is part of the same country.” However, the speaker said, potential responses should not be discussed through the media.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor submitted a letter to the Security Council, demanding the immediate condemnation of Hamas for the latest round of violence. “The situation must end,” he wrote, adding that Israel “would use all means necessary to defend its citizens.”
Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood sharply criticized Israel over its recent airstrikes, which killed seven Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The Islamist group said in a statement Tuesday that the Palestinian issue would always be a priority for Arabs and Muslims, despite other nations’ mounting domestic worries. It also called on governments in the region “to stop the Zionist war,” which it accused Israeli leaders of pursuing for political points ahead of January elections in Israel.