Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that those who act against Israeli citizens would pay a heavy price, speaking Tuesday afternoon in Beersheba with local and regional council heads from the South. The statement came on the heels of a weekend that saw upwards of 120 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.
"Whoever thinks that he can routinely attack the daily lives of the residents of the South without paying a heavy price – is mistaken. I am responsible for choosing the right time to exact the highest possible price and so it will be," he said.
The prime minister traveled to Beersheba from Tel Aviv in 55 minutes on a fast train, to underscore the message that the periphery southern area of Israel where more than 150 rockets have fallen is intrinsically linked to the country’s center.
“I chose to travel to head down to Beersheba on the renovated train line to show, through personal experience, the fast link between the Center to the South. This line, which now allows travel to Beersheba in under an hour, shows how close the Center is to the South,” Netanyahu said.
The inner security cabinet agreed Tuesday not to fire on the Gaza Strip as long as the rocket fire stops, Army Radio reported.
However, should the rocket fire be renewed over the next few weeks, then Israel will increase the severity of its response in order to enhance its deterrence, the ministers concluded, according to the report.
Following the meeting, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Gaza has a terrorist infrastructure reminiscent of Hezbollah prior to the 2006 Lebanon War.
"[Israel] never agreed to this situation which goes against all of our agreements with the Palestinians," he added.
The European Union and the Arab League issued a joint statement of concern after a meeting foreign ministers from both groups held in Cairo Tuesday.
"The ministers expressed concern at the recent escalation in and around Gaza and welcomed the Egyptian efforts aimed at reaching a ceasefire. The ministers condemned all acts of violence against civilians and called for the full implementation of UNSC resolution 1860 and full respect of international humanitarian law," the statement said.
Monday night, Israel asked the United Nations Security Council to condemn the recent barrage of Palestinian rockets.
“The serious danger of an even greater escalation hangs over our very volatile region. Many Israeli civilians and soldiers have been injured. Damage to property has been significant. One million people in Southern Israel remain under grave threat,” Ambassador to the UN in New York Ron Prosor wrote in a letter.
He addressed it to the Security Council and to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“Israel holds Hamas fully responsible for all acts of terrorism flowing from Gaza,” Prosor wrote. He added that “the time for the Security Council to condemn Hamas terrorism with one voice is now, before it is too late."
Prosor also said that “The Palestinian leadership has a fundamental responsibility to clearly condemn Hamas terrorism. The silence that continues to echo from [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas’ office speaks volumes."
Israel, he concluded, will take all necessary steps to protect its citizens.
“Those who target Israelis with terrorism today will pay a very heavy price tomorrow. Israel has exercised – and will continue to exercise – our right to self-defense.”