Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Sunday that the IDF operation against Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza would continue, and said Israelis should not expect a quick conclusion to the fighting.
Speaking at the start of the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu and other Israeli officials maintained that Israel would not negotiate a ceasefire while rockets continued to be fired at Israel, even as Palestinian and Egyptian officials in Cairo called for Jerusalem to return to the table.
“Operation Protective Edge is continuing,” Netanyahu said. “At no stage did we declare its conclusion. The operation will continue until its goal is met – the restoration of a quiet for a long period. I said at the outset of and throughout the operation that it would take time and patience. Israel will not negotiate under fire and Israel will continue to take all action in order to change the current reality and bring quiet to all of its citizens. We will stand together, united and determined, until we complete the work.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also emphasized the need for patience. “As we emphasized during the entire operation, we need resilience and patience.”
“If Hamas thinks it will wear us out, it is mistaken,” he said. “We will return to the negotiating table only after a ceasefire.”
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar took a more pugnacious tone. “We must break Hamas’s military strength in Gaza. This was true before and it’s true now. We must allow the residents of the Gaza periphery to return to their homes in peace.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also called for a more aggressive operation. “We were supposed to go on until the submission of Hamas. For now, we see that its minimum demands are way beyond the maximum that Israel can agree to. This situation cannot continue. What is left is to defeat Hamas, clean the area, and leave as quickly as possible.”
“We are nearing the point where we will have to make a decision,” said Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan. “Even it means conquering the Strip and toppling Hamas, with all the costs, there will be no choice.”
Hamas has refused to extend a temporary truce that helped launch the Cairo talks last week, saying it wants guarantees from Israel first that Gaza’s borders will open. Israel and Egypt have enforced the blockade, to varying degrees, since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.
Since the truce expired Friday, smaller Gaza terrorist groups — though not Hamas, according to claims of responsibility — have fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Israel.
— AP contributed to this report.