Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today:
“Israel is conducting a vigorous military campaign against Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has chosen to attack our cities with massive and indiscriminate rocket fire. I said from the outset that we would respond in strength against this criminal firing at our citizens and this is what we are doing.
We are striking Hamas with increasing strength. We are hitting commanders, militants, arsenals and command centers. The IDF, ISA, security services, firefighters, the Israel Police – everyone is doing their part and doing it in the best way possible. But one must understand how our enemy operates. Who hides in mosques? Hamas. Who puts arsenals under hospitals? Hamas. Who puts command centers in residences or near kindergartens? Hamas. Hamas is using the residents of Gaza as human shields and it is bringing disaster to the civilians of Gaza; therefore, for any attack on Gaza civilians, which we regret, Hamas and its partners bear sole responsibility.
The leadership of Hamas and the other organizations has chosen – at a time when they are using the population of Gaza as human shields – to hide under ground, to flee abroad and to deliberately put civilians in the line of fire. This is the entire difference between us and Hamas – we are using defensive systems against missiles to protect the residents of Israel and they are using the residents of Gaza to protect arsenals of missiles. Nothing better underscores the difference in this campaign. Israel is a democracy that is fighting – in a legitimate and focused manner – against unbridled terrorists and no country in the world would do any less than we are doing to protect our citizens.
We will continue to act in a patient and level-headed manner, with responsibility, and vigorously in order to achieve the goal of the operation – the restoration of quiet for a long period while inflicting a significant blow on Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. The IDF is prepared for all possibilities.
Now, two other points. First, to the citizens of Israel: You are showing maturity and responsibility and I think that you are impressing the entire world. But I have one request: Do not be complacent. I know that there are people who are going out and who want to see the missiles. I ask you: Do not do this. I ask that you enter protected spaces. We are speaking here from a protected space. We ask you to be in protected spaces and to listen to instructions from IDF Home Front Command. Someone rightly said that that regarding civil defense, one needs not only an Iron Dome but iron discipline as well. You have shown this up until now. This could yet take a long time and we need both your support and your discipline.
The last point: Today in Vienna, the foreign ministers of the major powers are discussing the question of dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. I would like to remind them Hamas and Islamic Jihad are being financed, armed and trained by Iran. Iran is a major power of terrorism that finances, arms and trains the terrorist organizations we are fighting against. This Iran cannot be allowed the ability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. If this happens, the things we are seeing around us and the things that are happening in the Middle East will be far worse. In recent years we have made various forecasts for the Middle East – me and my colleagues here around the table – and these forecasts have, to my regret, come true one by one. The prediction of Iran as a nuclear threshold state cannot be allowed to come true, it cannot. This cannot be and it will not be.