Operation Guardian of the Walls was a major blow to Hamas that will change the contours of the conflict for years to come, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s top security officials said in a press conference on Friday, hours after the ceasefire ending the 11-day operation began.
“The public doesn’t know everything, Hamas doesn’t know everything, but all our achievements will be revealed over time,” Netanyahu said. “At this time, I can say we did daring and innovative things.”
Netanyahu said that Israel “changed the equation not only during the days of the operation but also for the continuation.
“If Hamas thinks we will absorb a drizzle of rockets, they are wrong,” he added. “What happened in the past is not what will be…They always come out of their tunnels and their holes and brag, but they know what they brought upon themselves. They know what our abilities are and that we set them back by years.”
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Nadav Argaman said “this operation was not like the others,” and that it “could be a reality-changing operation; the rules of the game have changed.”
“Hamas before this operation is not like Hamas the day after,” Argaman added.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israel surprised Hamas, and that they regret choosing to escalate.
"The cost of breaking the quiet will be very, very high," Gantz warned, pointing out that large numbers of soldiers are spread out in potential points of friction.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi said Hamas "didn't read us right and were met with a force of attack that it didn't expect."
Kohavi emphasized that the IDF "made a great effort not to harm non-combatants, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad work among them."
Netanyahu similarly said that Israel worked to that end "like no country in the world," and that the IDF is "the most moral army in the world."
Gantz said that Hamas "took the residents of Gaza hostage with poverty and a lack of hope. They deserve infrastructure for water and electricity and hospitals that are not storehouses for rockets...[They] deserve quiet and should have gainful employment instead of rocket factories."
Gantz said he spoke to Arab leaders of countries with ties with Israel, and some without official diplomatic relations with Israel.
"We have an opportunity to bring change. We cannot miss it, blink and close the door that opened," Gantz stated. "This is the time to strengthen the moderate forces around us."
Gantz and Netanyahu thanked the US for its support for Israel.
"My good friend Biden and I spoke six times in recent days - all the conversations were friendly and warm," Netanyahu said. "He repeated that the US supports Israel's right to defend itself... I thank him for his cooperation in manufacturing Iron Dome missiles."
Biden and Netanyahu spoke shortly after the truce was declared on Thursday evening. Biden promised to replenish the Iron Dome system, as well as to provide humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Gaza in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas.
Netanyahu said he was also very touched by European governments and parliaments that raised Israeli flags over their buildings in solidarity and the foreign ministers of Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia who visited this week.
Kohavi and Netanyahu also spoke of the Israeli captives - Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed - and missing soldiers - Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul - still in Gaza.
Kohavi said that it is his "personal responsibility" to bring them home, "and the whole of the IDF won't rest until we complete the mission."
Netanyahu promised that "we do not forget [them] for a moment."
As for the internicine violence between Jews and Arabs in Israel, Netanyahu said he instructed to stop rioters "with a heavy hand."
The prime minister also called on Arab leadership to "fully condemn" the violence, and said that the few who did "are brave and should be praised."
"It's not the whole or even the majority of the Arab public, but it is a significant minority that should be rejected," he added. "We are a country of laws and we are one nation."
Gantz said that Israel requires "not only intensive care but a deep healing process, to reject the extremists who fuel the fires and strengthen solidarity between us."