A grim Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was unapologetic Monday in saying it had been one of the most difficult days of Israel’s three week-long war with Hamas so far.
At his news conference, the prime minister withheld nothing, beginning with condolences to those who lost family members just a few hours earlier when terrorists shelled the Eshkol Regional Council district.
Of the four Israelis who died and nine left wounded, none were Eshkol residents; IDF officials later asked that for now, at least, no further volunteers come to the Gaza border with food and snacks for the soldiers.
“There is no war more justified than this one,” the prime minister asserted, reminding Israelis that from the outset, he had warned the fight to dismantle the threat presented by Hamas would take time.
“We knew there would be difficult days,” Netanyahu reminded. “This was a difficult and painful day.”
It is not possible, the prime minister insisted, that the people of Israel will continue to live with the existence of a mortal threat from terrorist tunnels below, and a mortal threat from missiles in the skies above. “Death from above, death from below,” will not be allowed to continue to threaten the people of Israel, Netanyahu said.
The war will continue “until our mission is completed – to protect our citizens, our children, our people.”
The first step in that process, he said, is to destroy the tunnels.
A spokesman for Hamas responded to Netanyahu’s remarks, telling a reporter in Gaza the terrorist organization was ‘not intimidated’ by the prime minister’s statements.
Meanwhile, in response to the intense rocket fire and the shelling that left four dead and nine wounded earlier in the evening, the IDF escalated its operation Monday evening.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz warned Gaza civilians once more that it was in their best interest to keep their distance from Hamas terrorists. Phone calls were made to private homes and SMS text messages were transmitted in Arabic to cell phones as well, warning civilians in Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and Jabalya to evacuate themselves immediately from the area and to move to central Gaza City for their own safety.
Israeli artillery began pounding northern and central Gaza soon after, with at least two reported dead and dozens wounded in the initial IDF attacks. Some of the Palestinian wounded have made their way to the IDF field hospital set up by Israel to help treat the wounded along the Gaza border.
“If the leaders of Hamas believe they will be able to keep up a constant barrage of missiles, rockets and terrorist attacks, they are making a big mistake,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told reporters at the news briefing. “If terrorist organizations in Gaza think they will be able to break the State of Israel and our citizens. . . in the next few days they will understand how wrong they are.
Hana Levi Julian