Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered the defense establishment to move ahead with a “long and forceful operation in Gaza.”
At a high level security meeting Tuesday morning, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the head of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), Home Front Commander Maj.-Gen. Eyal Eizenberg and other defense officials decided Hamas had crossed the last line.
On Monday, Gaza terrorists fired a barrage of missiles that reached north of Ashdod and close to Beit Shemesh. Tuesday morning, Hamas attempted to bring down an IAF Apache attack helicopter flying near Khan Yunis in Gaza.
The meeting was followed by a statement by the prime minister who said, “Hamas chose to escalate the situation, and it will pay a heavy price for doing so. The time has come to ‘take off the gloves.’”
Preparations are currently underway for a further call up of IDF reservists in advance of a ground operation.
The government has declared a “special situation” in all areas of the south within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of Gaza – a legal decree allowing authorities to safeguard public safety using various means reserved for times of conflict.
The IDF Home Front Command is expected shortly to announce instructions on what citizens should do and how to behave in various scenarios – as it did in the previous mini-war.
“We are prepared for a campaign against Hamas which will not end within days. Hamas is leading the current confrontation to a place in which it seeks to exact a heavy price from our home front. There is a need for patience,” Ya’alon told media.
“In recent hours we have struck with force and hit dozens of Hamas assets. The IDF is continuing with the offensive effort in a manner that will exact a very heavy price from Hamas. We will not tolerate missile and rocket fire on Israel, and we are prepared to expand the campaign through all of the means available to us, to continue striking Hamas.
“I’d like to send my support to residents of the south and to local government leaders there, who are displaying leadership and responsibility, and are allowing us to continue with the offensive efforts.”
Last month, the IDF was ordered to seriously weaken the infrastructure and strength of the Hamas terrorist organization in Judea and Samaria. Hundreds of Hamas members, lawmakers and other top officials in the region were arrested during Operation Brother’s Keeper, launched in response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens by Hamas terrorists in Gush Etzion on June 12.
The current conflict – and the apparent intifada that has been launched across the country – was ignited using the excuse of rage over the murder of a Jerusalem Arab teen last week.
The second intifada was likewise launched using a similar excuse, as was the first.
Six Jewish suspects were arrested and questioned within days of the killing and remain in custody. In stark contrast, no arrests have been made in connection with the terrorist murder of the three Israeli Jewish teens. Those suspects fled to Palestinian Authority-controlled territories and then disappeared. PA forces have not cooperated in securing their arrest and remand.