As Operation Guardian of the Walls enters its second week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s campaign is continuing at “full force” toward achieving a level of deterrence sufficient to prevent future conflict with Hamas.
“We are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm and quiet to you, Israel’s citizens. It will take time,” Netanyahu said in a televised address after his security Cabinet met on Sunday.
There is no sign of any imminent end to the most serious hostilities between Israel and the Hamas Islamists who rule Gaza since the 2014 war.
“We are exacting very heavy prices from Hamas for its intolerable aggression,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu, explaining that the IDF has “struck very hard at Hamas’s underground activity. Hamas invested an entire decade and vast capital in the excavation of tunnels; most of it, not all, but a considerable part, is gone.”
Underscoring that “No terrorist is immune,” Netanyahu added that the extensive subterranean network constructed by Hamas under Gaza City that the IDF refers to as “the Metro” has now “been transformed from a strategic asset into a death trap for terrorists.”
In the campaign to deplete the Iran-backed Islamist group of its arsenal, Prime Minister Netanyahu revealed that “stockpiles of missiles and rockets,” explosive-laden drones, command centers, naval capabilities and other infrastructure has been destroyed throughout the Palestinian enclave, “doing this while making an effort to minimize injury to uninvolved persons.”
10 Israeli civilians, including 2 children, and 1 IDF soldier have been killed since Hamas began firing rockets at Israel on 10 May during Jerusalem Day celebrations. 564 civilians and 2 soldiers have been wounded.
Hamas began its rocket assault last Monday after weeks of tensions over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in east Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police response to Palestinian clashes near the Old City’s Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Israel has fired at least 1,500 strikes against Hamas, which has fired more than 3,100 missiles at the Jewish State over the past week. Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system has downed at least 90% of the incoming rockets.
According to an IDF statement, this morning Israeli Air Force (IAF) airstrikes reportedly killed senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Hassam Abu-Arbid, who commanded the northern Gaza Strip brigade responsible for the firing rockets and anti-tank guided missiles towards Israel. The homes of Hamas leader Yayha Sinwar and his brother Muhammed, who is in charge of the logistics and manpower, were destroyed. Additional IAF strikes targeted homes and offices of Hamas leaders, including Political Bureau Planning and Development head Samah Sarag, the Zeitoun Battalion commander Youssef Abel-Wahab and senior Military Intelligence official Ahmad Abd El Aal.
15 kilometers of the “C” line of the Hamas “Metro” was also reportedly destroyed in the third strike by the IAF jets overnight, involving 54 fighter jets that dropped some 110 precision munitions on 35 targets in 20 minutes.
The IDF has been undertaking extraordinary efforts to minimize casualties in Gaza while eradicating its terrorist infrastructure – including hours of advance notice prior to airstrikes. Israel insists that the majority of the 197 fatalities in Gaza were terrorists, who have deliberately placed their rocket launching pads and other command centers at population centers in the densely-packed Strip.
Speaking also on behalf of Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and “the entire nation,” Netanyahu saluted the Israeli army, Shin Bet Security Agency and all other men and women of the defense establishment.
“With stratagems we make war [see Proverbs 24:6] and with daring we will be victorious. We are continuing to take action, even at this hour, as long as necessary to restore quiet and security to you, citizens of Israel,” he added, saying that “We want to exact a price from the aggressor as in all types of terrorism” while cautioning that, “To restore the quiet and security and to rebuild deterrence and governance, will take time.”
The Prime Minister’s address to the nation came on the eve of the Shavuot holiday, an annual observance of the deliverance of the Ten Commandments by God to Moses.
Citing the renowned Biblical scholar Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (known as Rashi), who wrote “As one person, with one heart,’ Netanyahu said, “Thus we stand today – as one person, with one heart, with one heart in the fight for our state, one heart behind our soldiers, and one heart for our security and our future.”
Meanwhile, the sound of explosions roared overnight as Gaza rockets were fired at the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon, and other southern Israeli communities, as IDF aircraft struck nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders where weapons were stored, said the military.
Later this morning, Palestinian media reported that Israel had struck a factory in northern Gaza. Video on social media showed a column of thick black smoke rising into the air.
Netanyahu defended another Israeli air strike on Saturday that destroyed a 12-storey building where the Associated Press and the Al Jazeera TV network had offices in Gaza City, after providing advance warning for occupants to leave.
During an interview on the United States’ CBS “Face the Nation” program, he insisted that the building also housed Hamas military intelligence, and that Israel had passed information about the structure to authorities in Washington.
“We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a source close to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told The Jerusalem Post. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.”
The Associated Press has condemned the strike. “We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”
This, despite claims from prominent journalist Matti Friedman and former AP staffer, who detailed the news organization’s long troubling history with the Gaza terror group in a report for the Atlantic dating back to 2014, who alleged that Hamas would regularly “burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it.”
“Spoke to a well-placed friend in the IDF just now. The bombed AP office building contained multiple Hamas operations & offices including weapons manufacturing and military intelligence. The building also housed an Islamic Jihad office. And AP’s local reporters knew about it,” wrote Free Beacon contributor Noah Pollack on Twitter.