Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday responded to ongoing rocket fire, wishing wounded Israeli soldiers and civilians a speedy recovery, and saying that the army would not abide continued attacks from the Gaza Strip.
“The IDF is operating, and will operate forcefully against the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, which are sustaining heavy blows from the IDF,” the prime minister said. “The world needs to understand that Israel will not sit idly by in the face of attempts to attack us. We are prepared to intensify the response.”
Earlier, government ministers threatened an intensified response to attacks from the Gaza Strip, after a weekend that included almost unabated rocket fire and IAF counter-strikes.
The latest round of violence was triggered by an attack on an Israeli army vehicle along the border on Saturday that injured four IDF soldiers.
“We need to create a completely different deterrence situation” in regards to the “terrorist state” in the Gaza Strip, Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said in a Sunday interview with Army Radio.
Dichter, who recently joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, noted that “nobody should think Israel’s actions will be affected by upcoming elections. [Operation] Cast Lead came during an elections period [in 2008-9], and so did [the 1981 attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor at] Osirak.”
Dichter wouldn’t specify what kind of Israeli response could change the rules of the game, and stopped short of calling for a large-scale IDF ground excursion into the Gaza Strip.
Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon was more specific. “There’s no doubt that in the past two weeks we’ve been witnessing an escalation, which Hamas is responsible for,” Ya’alon told Israel Radio. “We aren’t going to let this stand. Overnight we acted… and if there will be the need, the IDF will know — with the instruction of the government, of course — what to do to keep exacting such a price that these provocations won’t pay off for them.”
Ya’alon acknowledged that there were no easy solutions to the problem, but suggested that targeted killings of senior terror leaders had in the past brought about extended periods of calm along the Gaza border.
“I remember in my time [as chief of staff], in 2003-2004, Hamas in effect raised a white flag, following targeted killings of its leaders,” he said. “We have many means for exacting a price from the other side, and we will deploy them as we see fit, so that in the end we can bring quiet back to the south.”
Ya’alon didn’t rule out the possibility of a Cast Lead-style ground operation deep in the Gaza Strip, but said Israel would first try to achieve its goals with more moderate force.
“Everything is being weighed and will be weighed,” he intimated, when asked if he was talking about a “Cast Lead II.”
On Sunday morning, Palestinian terrorists fired some nine rockets into southern Israel, putting the total number of projectiles fired from Gaza at over 70 since Saturday. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz convened with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak late Saturday to assess the situation along the border.
Barak said the IDF had responded forcefully to the terrorist fire and would consider additional responses in the upcoming days.
“We will not let such border incidents go unanswered,” said Barak.
AP contributed to this report.