Israel continued on Sunday to make preparations to send ground forces into Gaza,
despite warnings that the international community might not support such a
On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a meeting with
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for the third
night in a row.
In the morning, Netanyahu told the cabinet at its weekly
meeting, “The IDF has attacked over 1,000 terrorist targets [since Wednesday
afternoon] in the Gaza Strip and it is continuing its operations as we speak.
The IDF is prepared for a significant expansion of its
British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Israel
against a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip, in an interview with Sky
“The prime minister [David Cameron] and I have both stressed to our
Israeli counterparts, that a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of
the international sympathy,” Hague said. “It is much more difficult to restrict
and avoid civilians casualties during a ground invasion.”
Such a move
would prolong the conflict and impact already existing tensions in the region,
There is the situation in Syria and rising tensions with Iran
over its nuclear program, he said. “It is important to see the larger strategic
context of this.”
Britain, Hague said, had supported efforts toward a
cease-fire that so far had not been successful.
“We would like to see an
agreed cease-fire with an essential component of which is an end to those rocket
attacks,” Hague said.
“Hamas bears principal responsibility for starting
all of this,” he said.
But he said his country had called on both sides
to de-escalate the situation, avoid civilian casualties and abide by
US President Barack Obama, who has strongly supported
Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense
, continued to do so while traveling in
Asia on Sunday, but said he would prefer not to see a ground
“We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself
from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing
civilians,” Obama said. “And we will continue to support Israel’s right to
Obama said he had repeated this messages to regional
parties, who, together with the US, were looking to deescalate the
Still, he cautioned, it was preferable to find a way to stop
the rockets without the “ramping-up of military activity in Gaza.
not just preferable for the people of Gaza, it’s also preferable for Israelis —
because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they are much more at risk of incurring
fatalities or being wounded,” Obama said.
Speaking to the foreign press
in Jerusalem, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Netanyahu had
asked world leaders, “What would you do in a situation where your citizens were
subject to incessant rocket fire.”
Ya’alon added, “We expect our allies
to support us [as we] use all the tools available to defend our
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu told the government that IDF
activity in Gaza had significantly harmed Hamas’s ability to fire rockets
The IDF’s aerial missions had levied a heavy toll on
Hamas and other terrorists organizations in Gaza, he said.
He briefed the
cabinet on conversations he had over the weekend with world leaders on
“I appreciate their understanding that Israel has a right to defend
itself,” Netanyahu said.
In those conversations, he explained, he
emphasized that Israel was doing everything it could to avoid harming Gaza
At the same time, he said, Hamas and the other terrorist
organizations in Gaza were doing their utmost to hit Israeli
“We are a responsible government that is obligated, above all,
to the security of its citizens, and we are acting in accordance with this
obligation,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu said he has spoken over
the weekend with Obama and thanked him as well for understanding this
Netanyahu also thanked Obama for America’s contribution to the
Iron Dome system that has protected Israeli citizens from rocket
Netanyahu praised the “restraint, determination and the
resilience of Israeli citizens on the home front.”
He added that he
appreciated the rapid mobilization of the reserve forces.
cabinet approved NIS 7.6 million to protect daycare centers for young children
in communities within 7 kilometers of the Gaza Strip.
Barak commented on
the possibility of expanding the Gaza operation, speaking during a visit to the
Iron Dome battery placed in the Dan region.
The IDF was “primed and ready
to do whatever it takes to remove the [rockets] threat, strength Israeli
deterrence and hit Hamas and Islamic Jihad hard,” he said.
Barak said the
IDF would not hesitate to send ground forces into Gaza if it were necessary, but
that Israel was also prepared to stop the operation if Hamas stopped firing
rockets at southern Israel.
While the prime minister did not publicly
discuss a ground operation, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Israel Radio on
Sunday morning that the cabinet was indeed discussing the pros and cons of such
Sa’ar also revealed that negotiations toward achieving a
cease-fire had not yet progressed to a point that would justify halting military
operations in Gaza.
Accordingly, he said, the IDF would continue its
current course of action.
Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau said that
now was not the time for a cease-fire as the IDF had not yet achieved all of its
Landau said the army has a lot of work to do to destroy the
terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and prevent weapons smuggling.
necessary, the IDF should launch a ground operation in Gaza to achieve these
aims, Landau said.