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Netanyahu: Israel achieved all its objectives in Gaza, dealt Hamas massive blows

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement at a press conference after the Gaza ceasefire, Tel Aviv, May 21, 2021. At his side is a screen showing Israel's subterranean barrier surrounding the Gaza Strip (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement at a press conference after the Gaza ceasefire, Tel Aviv, May 21, 2021. At his side is a screen showing Israel's subterranean barrier surrounding the Gaza Strip (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks the Israeli people for its “resilience” during the fighting, in a special statement from the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. He claims that the Gaza operation’s objectives were “extraordinarily” achieved.

He thanks all officials involved in the military, civilian and public relations efforts during the fighting. Everyone pulled together to ensure Israel’s security, he says.

He says the “only consideration” he had in the operation was “safeguarding Israel’s security” and “defending the lives of its citizens and soldiers,” and says not everything regarding the outcome and impact of the Israeli strikes is yet known to the public, or even to Hamas. “We did daring and innovative things, without getting dragged into unnecessary misadventure.”

He says he didn’t order a ground operation in Gaza because he believed it wasn’t necessary. “Had I believed it necessary, I would have ordered it,” he adds. There will also be criticism, he notes, but we acted “with determination, with wisdom, and with supreme responsibility… I regard it as my responsibility to protect the mothers, the sons, our soldiers and prevent unnecessary loss of life.”

From left: Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman, IDF chief Aviv Kohavi, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a press conference after the Gaza ceasefire, Tel Aviv, May 21, 2021. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“Therefore, we caused maximum casualties to Hamas while minimizing Israeli casualties,” he says, expressing sorrow for every civilian life lost.

He adds that Israel fulfilled its objective to deal Hamas a “blow it cannot imagine” by destroying the terror tunnel network it built in Gaza and which he says turned into a “death trap,” as well as by being dealt “massive blows” both above ground and underground.

He says the terror group had wanted to carry out many cross-border attacks — including at the tail-end of the operation — but was thwarted by Israel’s subterranean barrier around Gaza, its “iron wall.”

“Every time they approached,” the sensors in the subterranean barrier detected the terrorists, “they were destroyed underground.”

He says Israel destroyed “a considerable proportion” of Hamas’s internal tunnel routes, its “metro,” in which Hamas had invested vast resources. “We harmed more than 100 kilometers” of that network, and turned into “a death trap for the terrorists.”

Above ground, he says Israel killed over 200 terrorists, including 25 senior officials. “And those who didn’t die know today that we can reach them everywhere– above or below ground,” he says, calling it “an achievement no military has ever achieved.”

He highlights the various terror targets — including “nine terrorist towers” — Israel hit. “None of these were innocent buildings,” he says — alluding to controversy over the demolition of a tower where numerous media agencies had offices — but rather “Hamas offices, Hamas command centers, Hamas weapons stores. We hit rocket factories, weapons labs, weapons stores. And we did this with minimal harm to non-involved civilians” — making “extreme efforts” not to harm civilians, steps which he says haven’t been taken “by any country in the world. “The IDF is the world’s most moral army.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement at a press conference after the Gaza ceasefire, Tel Aviv, May 21, 2021. At his side is a screen showing Gaza terror commanders killed in Operation Guardian of the Walls (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Netanyahu says the entire operation, including the thwarting of Hamas drone and most rocket attacks — via an improved Iron Dome — and thwarting Hamas attempts to attack from the sea has “changed the equation” and caused Hamas to be more careful in the future about attacking Israel. “Most of Hamas’s capabilities have been harmed — far more seriously than Hamas commanders imagined. Hamas thought it could fire on Jerusalem and the cities of Israel, and we would react with business as usual.” Instead, Hamas was pounded for 11 days. “The rules of the game were changed… We changed the equation not only as regards the operation, but also as regards the future. If Hamas thinks we will tolerate a ‘drizzle’ of rockets, it is mistaken. We will respond with a whole new level of force to every instance of aggression against the Gaza-envelope communities or anywhere else in Israel. What was is not what will be.”

Hamas may be bragging as it emerges from the tunnels, he says, “but they realize the destruction they brought upon themselves inside Gaza… they know we set them back years.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement at a press conference after the Gaza ceasefire, Tel Aviv, May 21, 2021. At his side is a screen showing parts of Hamas ‘metro’ tunnel network inside the Gaza Strip (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

He thanks US President Joe Biden and says their six recent conversations were all friendly and warm, arguing that alongside international criticism and pressure, including in the media, Israel also received remarkable international support from dozens of countries and led successful diplomatic efforts with many global leaders. He says he assured Biden that the operation would stop when its goals were achieved, that Biden “understood this,” and that this is precisely what happened. “Many in the world are capable of distinguishing between Israel, a democratic state that sanctifies life and has the world’s most moral army, and a bloodthirsty terrorist organization that sanctifies death and commits a double war crime: deliberately firing on [our] civilians while using their civilians as human shields.”

He says Israel doesn’t forget captive civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed and the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, and is committed to returning them home, following criticism that the matter wasn’t discussed as part of the truce.

He also promises more aid for Ashkelon and other battered southern communities, even more than they received after the 2014 war. “Ashkelon was hit by 1,000 rockets,” he notes, and needs more protection, and more economic advantages. The southern area thrived after the 2014 war, and will thrive again now, still faster.

“We arrested 1,300 people and dealt with the rioters with a heavy hand,” he says of the eruption of Arab-Jewish violence inside Israel. He repeats his demands to Arab leaders to condemn the riots, claiming it is a “significant minority” within that community. “Nobody will take the law into their own hands — not Arabs and not Jews. Nobody. We are a law-abiding state. And we are one state… We will improve coexistence… so that all Israelis, without exception, will be part of the astonishing success story of our country.”

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