Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was not diminishing its offensive against Gaza-based terrorists Wednesday, pushing back against claims that a ceasefire brokered by Egypt was set to take effect.
Netanyahu spoke as Israeli cities in southern Israel were pummeled by successive rounds of rocket fire, with some penetrating Israel’s missile defense system and damaging homes, though no serious injuries were reported. The salvos, which also targeted the Tel Aviv area, sparked Israeli reprisal attacks and Hebrew-language media reported that the resumption of fighting had made ceasefire efforts more distant.
Speaking in a televised address, Netanyahu said Israel was still “at the height of the battle,” claiming that Israeli forces were dealing the Islamic Jihad terror group “the hardest blow” it had ever known.
“It’s still not over yet,” he said.
Speaking alongside Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant that Israel had dropped hundreds of bombs, knocking out weapons and ammunitions depots, as well as rocket-launching sites, and “all of this has left this murderous group without recourse.”
“We hope to bring this to a quick close, but we are ready if it is prolonged,” the defense minister added.
“A situation in which Israeli children are hurt is not acceptable to me and I won’t permit it. We’ll respond to any situation like this,” Gallant continued.
Netanyahu said Israel’s campaign had restored deterrence by reinforcing the idea that anyone who attacks Israel would be liable to pay for it.
“Everyone who harms us, everyone who sends terror against us, his blood is on his own hands,” the premier said.
Over 400 rockets and mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip into central and southern Israel Wednesday, as the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad sought to avenge the killings of three senior commanders in a surprise air sortie the night before. The fray is the latest in a series of confrontations with the terror group, including a number of multi-day flareups.
The Israel Defense Forces said that as of 9:30 p.m., Wednesday Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had launched 469 rockets and mortars at Israel. The IDF said 333 of the projectiles crossed the border, while 107 fell short in Gaza.
Air defense systems intercepted 153 of the rockets, while a handful landed in urban areas, some causing damage, the IDF said. The rest landed in open areas without causing damage.
The military said it had carried out strikes against 133 targets belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Responding both to criticism from hard-right members of his coalition for not rapidly responding to last week’s salvos and threats from Iranian and Hezbollah officials that they saw Israel as “weak,” due to internal divisions related to judicial powers, Netanyahu said that Israel is ready to find and “hurt” terror supporters at any point.
“We say to terrorists and those who send them: we see you in every place, you can’t hide, and we chose the place and the time to hurt you, us and not you,” the premier said. “Not just in response, also in calm periods, the choice is ours.”
Similarly, Gallant tried to reassure the nation that its political and security leadership are working in lockstep. He pointed to recent collaboration between the government, the military, the Israel Security Agency and his own Defense Ministry, and said, “It’s an important component of strength for the State of Israel and a sign for enemies to beware.”
“We are ready to continue operating in the Gaza area against Islamic Jihad and against any party that tries to challenge us,” he added.
Netanyahu, who said that the government is “extracting a high price from terror,” added that new intelligence and operational capabilities were deployed in the operation, without elaborating on details.
Israel has foiled about 120 terror plots in the past months, according to Netanyahu.