A senior minister indicated Saturday that Israel was not planning on launching a major military operation against Gaza in direct reaction to a foiled large-scale terror attack from the Strip earlier in the day, but would hit the enclave hard at some point.
Yoav Gallant, a former general and member of the high-level security cabinet, predicted the military would eventually launch a major offensive against the Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip, but its timing would be determined by Israel and not as a reprisal for an attack.
“Hamas will not determine the schedule. We will defend ourselves,” Gallant told Channel 12. “There will be another wide-scale operation in Gaza, but we will set the timing and conditions.”
The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday morning it had thwarted a “large-scale terror attack” after troops killed four Palestinians who attempted to infiltrate into Israel from the Gaza Strip, armed with AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, hunting knives and bolt cutters.
Recent Israeli attacks in Gaza have come in response to Hamas rocket fire or attempts to carry out attacks against civilians bordering the coastal enclave, drawing criticism that Israel was allowing terrorists in the Strip to determine the timing of military actions.
Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said he saw launching a war as a last resort, but said Israel would be prepared to do so if necessary. He refused to say when he thought an operation might be launched.
Hamas, which is the de facto ruler in the Strip, has not taken responsibility for the attempted attack. A member of the terror group’s political wing told the Haaretz daily that the four would-be attackers were acting independently and had no known affiliation to any group.
On August 1, three soldiers were injured when a gunman who sneaked across the Gaza border opened fire on them. The gunman, who was killed, was wearing a Hamas uniform, but the terror group dismissed his actions as a rogue operation and there was no major Israeli response.
Waves of violence along the restive border have mostly subsided in recent months due to a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.
Israel’s government has been pressured internally over the ceasefire agreements, which critics say does not address long-term problems plaguing the beleaguered enclave and has not resulted in the return of Israeli captives and the remains of soldiers being held in Gaza.
Asked about the fact that five years have passed with seemingly little movement on returning the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, Gallant said that the government was committed to bringing their remains back to Israel for burial.
“I’ve been involved in many negotiations throughout my service,” he said, but suggested that Israel might not be willing to pay a high price for remains. “There are different schedules with regards to bodies as opposed to living soldiers.”