Since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, there has been a 98 percent drop in the volume of ballistic fire out of Gaza at Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, indicating that deterrence had been achieved against Hamas and other Palestinian organizations in the Strip.
Netanyahu made the statement to soldiers of the IDF Gaza Division at an event marking a year since the start of the eight-day military operation, which aimed to bring a halt to rocket fire on Israel’s southern communities. Some 1,400 rockets, fired by various terror groups in Gaza, were lobbed at Israel during the operation, with hundreds intercepted en route by the Iron Dome system. Intensive airstrikes and the threat of an invasion by ground forces eventually led to a ceasefire with Hamas.
“There is no doubt that significant deterrence has been achieved,” Netanyahu said, adding that there had only been 35 incidents of rocket fire since the operation ended.
“We are not deluding ourselves,” the prime minister continued. “We know that Hamas and the other terror organizations are continuing to arm themselves in various ways. They are also trying to develop the underground track, i.e., tunnels, and we are called upon to find a response to all of these threats and, at the same time, keep up the strong deterrence that we have achieved and which we have been maintaining.”
In October the IDF discovered and rendered unusable a tunnel dug by Hamas from Gaza to Israel, apparently intended to facilitate a terror attack or kidnapping inside Israel.
In addition, Netanyahu said, Hamas was still stockpiling weapons and storing them in civilian areas.
“Hamas is manufacturing and storing missiles and rockets that are concentrated in residential buildings and aimed at Israeli citizens,” he said. “Israel will continue to strictly uphold international law, but will not sit on its hands while terrorists perpetrate two war crimes at the same time: They are prepared to fire at Israeli cities and are hiding behind civilians in the Gaza Strip. It is our full legal and moral right to direct fire that is as accurate as possible at those who fire indiscriminately at our people. The responsibility for any collateral damage that is liable to be caused to the residents of Gaza lies squarely on Hamas’s shoulders.”
Netanyahu also spoke about the border with Egypt, which, he said, had been sealed so well that in the past three months no African migrants have succeeded in crossing into Israel.
“There, Israel is, in effect, the first country that has succeeded to a large degree — one might say even to an absolute degree — in sealing its borders.” he said.
The once-porous border attracted migrants from African states, hundreds of whom would cross every month to seek safety and refuge in Israel. There are more than 50,000 African migrants currently in Israel, with a concentration in southern Tel Aviv. Ninety percent of the immigrants come from Eritrea and Sudan.