Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Sunday that Israel would not halt Operation Protective Edge until calm has been restored, and warned Gaza Strip civilians to evacuate any buildings used by Hamas for terror activities
“Israel needs to show its resilience so that its enemies know it will not be worn down,” Netanyahu said before the weekly cabinet meeting, adding that “Hamas attempts at attrition” were being met with relentless IDF attack on Gaza targets.
“I call on Gaza residents to leave any location from which Hamas is conducting terror activities,” the prime minister said. “Every such place is a target for us. We have seen in recent days that there is not, and won’t be, any immunity for someone who fires on the citizens of Israel.”
Operation Protective Edge would continue “until its goals are achieved. I said on the first day of the operation that it can take time and we’re prepared for the possibility that the campaign will last even until after the start of the school year,” said Netanyahu.
Last week, a temporary ceasefire ended when Palestinian terror groups in Gaza renewed rocket launches at Israel hours before the declared lull in fighting was due to expire. Exchanges of fire have continued unabated since, with near continuous rocket barrages emanating from Gaza and Israel launching airstrikes on Hamas targets across the coastal enclave.
Israel has said that Hamas is using civilian structures, including residential buildings, medical centers, and schools, as rocket storage and launching sites.
Addressing the residents of the country’s south as many of them were attending the funeral of 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman, who was killed in a mortar attack on Friday, the prime minister pledged both moral and financial support.
“I admire your fortitude, I admire your suffering, and I share your pain,” he told southern residents. “We will do everything to help you get through these difficult days. In the next cabinet meeting we’re going to approve an extraordinary package of aid to your towns. We are with you, and we will stay with you until the quiet is restored, and afterward as well.”
Netanyahu repeated an assertion he has made in the past that Hamas, as a jihadist terror organization, is similar to the Islamic State, the terror group rampaging across Iraq and Syria.
“Many states in the region and the West are beginning to understand that this is a single front, because Hamas is Da’ash [Islamic State] and Da’ash is Hamas,” he said. “They simply behave in the same way. I’d say, they are from the same poisoned tree. They are two extremist Islamic terror [organizations] who kidnap and murder innocents, who execute their own people, who don’t shy from any means, including the intentional murder of children. ”
“With every day that passes, the world increasingly understands that Hamas behaves like Da’ash [Islamic State] and Da’ash like Hamas,” he said. “The state of Israel will continue to stand alongside the civilized world in its war against the extremist, violent form of Islam.”
At the same cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon offered his condolences to the family of Tragerman, 4, and expressed wishes for the recovery of Netanel Maman, hit by a rocket on Friday night and who remains in critical condition.
Ya’alon warned that Israel will not balk at a prolonged campaign and said, “If the heads of Hamas think they can wear us out… they are wrong. We’re not rushing anywhere. We have patience.”
Operation Protective Edge will end “only when there is calm in the south” and when there is no more rocket fire, he said. Until then, Israel will pound Hamas, “for now from the air” but Israel has “other ways” too, he said, hinting at a possible return of ground forces inside the Gaza Strip.
“There are no magic solutions,” he added. “The only consideration guiding us is the good of Israel and its residents.”
Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned the Hamas leadership that it will be held accountable for the recent violence.
“This is a heartbreaking day for Israel,” he said. “The funeral of Daniel Turgeman, who was only four and a half years old, is something that we cannot and must not tolerate. And we will not tolerate it. The goal of Operation Protective Edge was to return quiet to the residents of the south. The leadership of Hamas must know that we will find them and they will pay the price for the situation in southern Israel. Not one of them is immune. Not the political leadership, not the leadership abroad, no one.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.