JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will not end its operation in Gaza before destroying all the Hamas-built tunnels, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address to the nation.
Neutralizing the tunnels is the first step toward demilitarization of Gaza, Netanyahu said Monday night in a nationally televised speech from the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv. He said the international community must demand the demilitarization of Gaza and monitor the building materials that enter Gaza in the future.
“We need to be prepared for a continued operation,” Netanyahu said. “We will fight to defend our citizens, our children.”
Netanyahu’s call to continue the operation until the tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border are destroyed appeared to be a rejection of President Obama’s insistence on an immediate and unconditional cease-fire, a message he conveyed to Netanyahu in a phone call Sunday afternoon.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said the “complex” operation in Gaza could continue for several more days, adding, “The price is painful, but we remain determined.”
He praised what he called the “unprecedented cooperation” of Israel’s air, sea, land and intelligence military sectors.
Gazan civilians warned by the IDF through leaflets or phone calls to leave their homes should listen, Gantz said, because “When we reach Hamas positions, it’s going to hurt.”
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that Israel “will not hesitate to expand IDF action in a way that will harm Hamas,” saying the operation “could last long days until security and quiet is returned to Israel.”