Friday, July 11, 2014 5:03 am
As the crisis between Israel and Palestinians deepens, with civilian causalities mostly, women and children, Israel‘s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that while its troop has struck hard at Hamas and the terrorists in the last few days, Israel will strike harder in the days ahead.
Netanyahu stated this following consultations with Israel‘s security top notch, held at the IDF Southern Command headquarters in Be’er Sheva, where he met with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and GOC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sammy Turgeman.
“We are in the third day of Operation Protective Edge. While the campaign has gone as planned further stages yet await us. We have struck hard at Hamas and the terrorists and as long as the campaign continues we will strike at them harder,” Netanyahu said in his official FaceBook Page.
Speaking further he said, “I would like to thank the IDF, ISA, and the security services for their professional, dedicated and precise actions, and express the appreciation of all Israelis. They are making every effort to avoid hitting civilians and innocents are hit it is because Hamas is maliciously hiding behind Palestinian civilians.”
He noted that the security effort has yielded great success in foiling “attempted attacks against Israeli citizens” but admits that there is yet tough and complicated campaign ahead, encouraging Israelis to continue to “show the strength” through the crisis.
“This civilian fortitude is a main component of our ability to continue operations until we finish the work of restoring quiet and security to Israel’s cities. The most important thing for us, for all of us, is to guard the lives of all Israelis and we are all working together to this end.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu in a statement on Operation Protective Edge, accused Hamas and other terrorists of firing rockets through out the cities of Isreal- Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and others cities- and insisting that “no country will remain passive in the face of 100 of rockets fired against its citizens, and Israel is no exception. Today we expanded our operations agianst Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza. We will continue to protect our civilians against Hamas attacks.”
“Hamas in contrast continues to put its Palestinian civilians into arms way. It embeds its terrors into schools, mosques and hospitals throughout the Gaza strip. Hamas is thus committing a double war crime, targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian Civilians.
“This operation could take time, we resolve to defend our families, and our homes. Today I spoke with several world leaders. I appreciated their expression of strong support for our right and our duty to defend ourselves.”
With the violence growing worse, US President Barack Obama in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, has said his government was willing to broker a ceasefire.
Obama said he was concerned the fighting could escalate and “called for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians”, the White House said.
“The United States remains prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities, including a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”
The 2012 deal, brokered by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Egypt, ended eight days of Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in a previous showdown.
Appeals for an immediate truce also came from UN chief Ban Ki-moon at an emergency meeting Thursday of the Security Council, saying a ceasefire was “more urgent than ever”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a similar plea in a phone call to Netanyahu, urging an immediate end to the bloodshed and expressing concern over civilian casualties.
But Israel appeared bent on dealing a fatal blow to the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, with Netanyahu reportedly saying talk of a ceasefire was “not even on the agenda”.
Israeli air strikes killed more than 30 Palestinians on Thursday alone, many of them women and children.
Hamas, the Palestinian group ruling Gaza, also appeared to have no interest in letting up, striking deep inside Israel over the past 48 hours, with rockets crashing down near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and even as far away as Hadera, 116 kilometres (72 miles) to the north.
Senior Hamas member and the movement’s former Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniya ruled out any backing down by the Islamist movement.
“The enemy (Israel) is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are (simply) defending ourselves,” Haniya said in a statement early Friday.
– ‘Complicated campaign’ –
Sirens wailed across Jerusalem for the second time running on Thursday and a series of loud explosions echoed across the city as the Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down two rockets fired from Gaza, the army said.
Another two crashed down in open areas in the occupied West Bank, one hitting near the Maaleh Adumim settlement and the other landing near Ofer, an Israeli military prison just west of Ramallah, witnesses and security officials told AFP.
Hamas claimed firing four missiles at Jerusalem.
Since the start of the Israeli campaign in the early hours of Tuesday, some 90 Palestinians have been killed and more than 500 injured, according to Gaza’s emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.
As the number of victims in Gaza rose, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing, with hospitals in north Sinai placed on standby to receive the wounded, Egyptian state news agency MENA said.
“We are still facing a difficult, complex and complicated campaign,” Netanyahu said after a security cabinet meeting.
The violence has emptied the streets from Gaza City to Tel Aviv, as both Israelis and Palestinians take shelter indoors for fear of being caught in the open when the next rocket or missile hits.
Israel has confirmed preparations are under way for a possible ground attack, with tanks seen massing along the border and Netanyahu facing mounting pressure from coalition hardliners to put boots back on the ground in the territory from which Israeli troops and settlers withdrew in 2005.
– 860 sites bombed –
Since the start of the operation, the Israeli military’s biggest offensive on Gaza since November 2012, its forces have hit over 860 “terror sites”, 110 of them on Thursday.
In the same period, Gaza militants fired 490 rockets, of which more than 370 struck Israel, while another 87 rockets were intercepted, an army statement said. Of the total, over 120 struck Israel on Thursday, while another 24 were intercepted.
Neither side has shown any sign of backing down, and Israel has approved the call-up of 40,000 reservists.
Analysts said Hamas had a clear aim: to drag Israel into a ground war hoping to inflict heavy casualties on its troops who would likely come under fire from anti-tank missiles and explosive devices.
Militants would also be seeking to capture Israeli soldiers to use as leverage.
In a news conference, Hamas’s armed wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades issued a veiled threat to kidnap soldiers, saying a “ground war will be a chance to free Palestinian prisoners.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a separate statement that Israel would “pay the price for its crimes,” saying an Israeli ground assault would be a mistake, calling Israeli troops “cowards.”