There is no doubt that the Israeli army is stronger than its enemies, but those enemies — terror groups and countries — are constantly improving their missile capabilities, and the Israeli home front will remain on the front line for the foreseeable future, Benny Gantz, the chief of the IDF General Staff, said on Tuesday.
Gantz was speaking at the apparent conclusion of four days of hostilities between Israel and Gaza, which saw some 200 rockets launched at Israel, and 24 people killed in Gaza — almost all of them terrorists — after Israel assassinated a Gaza terror chief on Friday.
Gantz praised the “maturity” and “resilience” of Israelis in the south — a million of whom were in rocket range. And he described the IDF’s performance over the past few days as “very good.”
The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system had performed very effectively in intercepting missiles aimed at Israeli residential areas, and the IDF’s offensive actions had been very effective, he said. Pinpoint Israeli Air Force strikes had caused “many casualties among the terrorists, almost without hurting non-combatants… Those [non-combatants] who were hit, to our sorrow, were close to terrorists.”
There had been no Israeli lives lost, and very few Israeli casualties, he added.
There was never “any question that we are stronger,” said the chief of staff. But he warned, nonetheless, that “the terror groups and armies around us are getting stronger” and improving their capacity to threaten the Israeli home front via missile attack.
Gantz said Friday’s airstrike that killed Zuhair al-Qaissi, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, had been carried out to thwart a planned terrorist action with “strategic” implications.
Al-Qaissi was said by Israel to have orchestrated last August’s infiltration north of Eilat in which eight Israelis were killed, and to have been about to carry out another, similar operation in the same area. The IDF Spokesman said on Monday night that some of the terrorists involved have already been dispatched to the Sinai, and that there are no guarantees that the planned attack has been thwarted.
Gantz said it appeared that the current round of hostilities was drawing to a close, but “it’s not over till it’s over.” He said tranquility in Gaza was a function of the terror groups’ decisions. “Quiet will be met with quiet,” he said. “Fire will be met with fire.”
He denied that Israel had promised not to carry out attacks on terrorists as part of the terms of a ceasefire. “We’ll act against any threat. Quiet in Gaza depends on the terrorist organizations; if they are quiet there’ll be quiet.”
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