Several hours into a ceasefire – which has thus far held since 2 a.m. local time – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summed up the past 11 days of a short war between Gaza and Israel in a briefing at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, even thanks the U.S. president for his support.
Netanyahu said that after Israel’s military operation that Hamas would think twice of attacking.
“We changed the equation not only as regards to the operation but also as regards the future. If Hamas thinks we will tolerate a ‘drizzle’ of rockets, it is mistaken,” the prime minister said. “What has been, we will not tolerate in the future.”
Netanyahu was referring to the sporadic rocket fire that Hamas fires at Israel, for instance 40 rockets during April before there was any escalation.
“We will respond with a whole new level of force to every instance of aggression against the Gaza-envelope communities or anywhere else in Israel,” he said.
Netanyahu also said Israel achieved its goals and that "the public doesn't know everything” that the military accomplished “and neither does Hamas.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz also warned Hamas it would pay a “heavy, very heavy” price if there was any breach of the ceasefire.
“We will not return to the reality we saw before this operation, he told Channel 12.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh hailed his terror organization’s “victory” from Qatar.
“We have destroyed the project of ‘coexistence’ with Israel, of ‘normalization’ with Israel,” Haniyeh said. “What is coming after this battle is not what came before it…you will yet see many [diplomatic] contacts and successes. We have seen how our nation awoke…to stand behind Jerusalem, Palestine and resistance.”
The 11-day barrage of rockets also managed to trigger civil unrest between Israeli Jews and Arabs in the streets of the country. Leading up to the first rockets on May 10, violent clashes broke out around the Old City and eventually spilled over into al-Aqsa Mosque.
Netanyahu outlined specifics of the military campaign which never involved Israeli ground troops entering the Gaza Strip.
The IDF destroyed or harmed 100 kilometers (60 miles) of a tunnel network that snakes through the coastal enclave and turned it into a “death trap.”
Netanyahu said Israel also managed to thwart cross-border attacks and assassinate 25 key Hamas leaders and 200 terrorists.
“Most of Hamas’ capabilities have been harmed — far more seriously than Hamas commanders imagined. Hamas thought it could fire on Jerusalem and the cities of Israel, and we would just react with business as usual,” the prime minister said.
Here is Netanyahu’s statement in full in English:
Israel didn’t initiate this conflict. We were attacked in an unprovoked manner by the Hamas terrorist organization that fired 4,000 rockets into our capital and into our cities. No country will sit aside when it’s attacked in such a criminal fashion. Israel is no different.
But we did do something different. We were fighting terrorists who are hiding among civilians in one of the most densely populated places on earth. They were firing rockets on our civilians while using their civilians as human shields. We did everything in our power to prevent civilian casualties, unnecessary casualties of non-combatants, while trying to attack the combatants who are trying to murder our citizens. We regret every loss of life, but I can tell you categorically, there is no army in the world that acts in a more moral fashion than the army of Israel.
I want to thank President Joe Biden, a friend of many years, who stood by Israel throughout this conflict. He expressed clearly, unreservedly, America’s support for Israel’s right of self-defense. And I am also grateful to President Biden for offering to help replenish our stocks of missile interceptors. That’s so important to saving Israeli lives, and coincidentally, Palestinian lives. Without Iron Dome, we would have had to have a ground invasion of Gaza to stop them firing their missiles and the casualty list would have soared to stratospheric heights.
So thank you, President Biden, and thank you too for the many leaders around the world who have stood by Israel. They know how to distinguish so clearly between a democracy that cherishes life and a terrorist organization that glorifies death. I think that distinction and that support is crucial for our common future. Thank you.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS