Prime Minister Naftali Bennett used the occasion of Thursday’s graduation ceremony at the IDF officers’ school to warn Israel’s next-door neighbors to the south, Hamas and the rest of the terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip that his government is prepared to meet their challenge head-on, should they decide to renew hostilities.
“In two weeks, it will be 15 years since the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War,” Bennett reminded his audience, most of whom were infants at the time. “This was the last time that the IDF carried out a wide-ranging ground operation. I was there, as the commander of a reserve infantry force, deep in the field. I saw how the battle looks when preparedness is lacking and the objectives are shrouded in fog.”
Bennett delivered his punch line: “Today, the IDF is in a completely different place. Our fighters are more determined, more professional, and better equipped. If and when we will have to apply our strength – we will also be more lethal.”
The prime minister was referencing recent commentaries in Israel’s media that suggested Hamas is prepared for a new round against Israel. Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in the Strip, has said as much, threatening that if Israel fails to permit the Qatari donation of $30 million or so (some say it’s double that amount) to come through, Hamas would start targeting Israel’s civilian centers again,
“Just as we don’t seek out combat, so too we don’t seek out ground operations. But if we think that the goals of the campaign require an operation, we will not hesitate to implement it; it will be massive and vigorous,” Bennett vowed.
The Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported Friday morning that in the Egyptian-brokered negotiations between Israel and Hamas being held in Cairo, Israel demanded the release of its two nationals and the bodies of its two MIA soldiers in exchange for easing the siege on the Gaza Strip and the transfer of Qatari money.
These demands were rejected by the Hamas delegation which made it clear to the Egyptian hosts that the release of the two living and two dead Israelis must coincide with the release of prisoners with “blood on their hands” in Israeli prisons.
Al-Akhbar also reported that the Israeli delegation requested information on the health and mental condition of the Israelis who are incarcerated in the Gaza Strip before any decision is made regarding the proposed deal. Hamas conditioned the requested report on Israel’s releasing sick and female security prisoners.
Hamas has warned that should it receive a negative response from Israel, it plans to “put pressure on Israel.” Here’s hoping Bennett would respond “more lethally.”