Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “working to achieve calm” with the Gaza Strip, but revealed that “we are prepared to embark on a campaign, an extensive military operation to strike at Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a military strike such as they have not yet received.”
The Israeli leader made the remarks while speaking at a state memorial ceremony at the Mount Herzl National Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, in commemoration for fallen IDF soldiers on the fifth anniversary of Operation Protective Edge. 67 troops and 6 civilians were killed in the 7 week conflict with Islamist militants in the 2014 war with Gaza, and another 469 soldiers and 87 civilians were wounded in the fighting.
“I cannot go into details but those who are involved in these preparations, who are sitting here today, know very well that these are not mere words,” added Netanyahu.
The Premier also reaffirmed his commitment to securing the release of the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, from Hamas – which is holding the remains as a macabre bargaining chip in negotiations with the Jewish State. Netanyahu also vowed to bring home Israeli civilians Avra Mengistu and Hisham A-Said, held in Hamas captivity in Gaza.
Netanyahu again stated he would not publicly disclose specifics involved in his government’s efforts to release the hostages, saying “I cannot go into detail here about everything that we are doing – but we are doing very much.” He then added, “I bow my head in bereavement and pain, and remain committed to my duty as Prime Minister to perceive the overall considerations. We are making vigorous efforts on behalf of all IDF MIAs and we proved that we stand by our word when we returned home the late Zachary Baumel.” Baumel was an Israeli-American soldier who fell in the 1982 Lebanon War, whose remains were only returned for burial April 2019 following a two-year cooperative mission with Russia to return bodies of missing IDF soldiers interred in Syrian territory formerly controlled by the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, the Hamas rulers of Gaza attempted to inflame emotion over the issue with claims “an important statement” about the Israeli captives would be issued Tuesday evening, timed to coincide with Israel’s commemorative events for the 2014 war.
In a speech broadcast on Facebook Live, a spokesman for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades-Hamas military wing identified as Abu Obeida, said, “We affirm that there is a real opportunity to resolve the issue of the prisoners and missing persons if the leadership of the enemy is serious in opening and advancing this file and paying the natural price through the clear path that led to the resolution of similar issues in the past.”
After providing no information about the captive Israelis, the Hamas spokesman then threatened Jerusalem’s refusal to concede to the Islamists’ demands could result in failure to ever secure their release. In reference to an Israeli navigator missing since his plane was downed over Lebanon in 1986, Abu Obeida said, “We warn that the case is likely to be closed – see the case of Ron Arad.”