Speaking to new enlistees to the IDF and Border Police on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the conflict with Hamas in Gaza is “a test of will,” and said Israel “will do what it takes” to protect its citizens.
Netanyahu’s comments followed weeks of the most serious tensions with Hamas since the 2014 war and an outburst of violence at the Gaza border beginning Wednesday night and continuing to Thursday morning.
“We’re managing difficult fronts in the north and in the south,” Netanyahu told the youths at the Bakum military induction base at Tel Hashomer east of Tel Aviv, referring also to Israel’s ongoing efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria.
“In the end, the burden of defending the country’s borders, and the country, falls on you. We trust you, we believe in you. You’re going to go through hard but important training that will give you the tools both to defend yourselves and to defend the country. That’s my wish for you, that you succeed in defending the country, and that you take care of yourselves.”
The prime minister was visiting the base on an induction day for the Paratroopers Brigade and the Border Police.
During his visit, Netanyahu was asked by one soon-to-be enlistee about the situation on the Gaza border. “We’re in a campaign,” he said. “It involves exchanging blows. In the end, it’s a test of will. We’re taking every opportunity [to restore calm], but we’re very, very determined to defend our borders. And we will do what it takes to protect not only the towns of the Gaza periphery, but the entirety of the State of Israel.”
Another youth asked the prime minister, who in his younger days served as an officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, how one deals with the rigors of military service.
His reply was read by Hebrew-language media as another reference to the Gaza situation: “Always tell yourselves: ‘I won’t be broken, we won’t be broken — we will break them.’ Remember, we won’t be broken.”
Netanyahu then toured the facility together with Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate.
The latest round of violence at the Gaza border began with a Wednesday night sniper fire attack from Gaza that moderately wounded an IDF officer near Kissufim, followed by retaliatory strikes by IDF tanks and planes that targeted multiple Hamas installations and left three members of the terror group dead.
Nine rockets were then fired at Israel overnight, eight falling in uninhabited areas and one shot down by Iron Dome, followed by another round of retaliatory IDF strikes against seven Hamas installations along the border.
Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, announced Thursday morning that its forces were going on high alert, deploying at the highest readiness level in expectation of a possible full-blown war with Israel.
According to the army, the Wednesday night sniper fire came as a squad of IDF soldiers arrived at a part of the fence that saw a group of 20 minors rioting on the other side. The minors were used as a decoy by the snipers to fire on the soldiers, the IDF said.
“Israel will pay in blood for its latest crimes,” the group said in a Thursday morning statement.
The burst of violence came after several days of calm following intense Israeli airstrikes in the Strip over the weekend in retaliation for the shooting death of an IDF soldier on the border Friday. On Tuesday, UN mediator Nickolay Mladenov said the sides had been “minutes from war” before a tacit ceasefire was reached.