Netanyahu: Gaza terror leaders know Israel can target them anywhere

“We do not mean to escalate [the situation],” Netanyahu said, “but we will know how to…protect the state of Israel and its citizens.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF commanders (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF commanders
Terrorists know that Israel can target them anytime, anywhere, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
“Leaders of the terrorist organizations, commanders and activists know that they have become targets, and that at any moment we can act against them in any space,” Netanyahu said. “They understand this message well. Every terrorist and commander knows that we can reach him personally.”
The prime minister announced that there will be “a series of follow-up steps,” after consultations with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman and other top security officials.
PIJ terrorists in the Gaza Strip have fired over 360 rockets in response to Israel’s targeted killing of its leader, Bahaa Abu al-Ata, on Tuesday morning.
Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu relayed a message to the Israeli public at the beginning of a cabinet meeting that the battle against the Islamic Jihad “could take time.”
“In the last 24 hours we have destroyed important Islamic Jihad targets,” said Netanyahu. “We targeted terrorist cells that planned to launch rockets at the territory of the State of Israel, several of which were caught in the act. Islamic Jihad would do well to understand this right now, instead of when it will be too late. I believe that Islamic Jihad is starting to internalize this message. They understand that we will continue to strike them without mercy. They understand that Israel is very strong and that our will is very great.”
Later addressing the Knesset, Netanyahu said: “We will not tolerate attacks on our citizens. In the last year, we accumulated a mass of these attacks.”
Al-Ata “was ready to carry out more and more terrorist attacks, including in these days,” the prime minister said. “We thwarted him when we were not heading for an escalation, but we will do all that we need to defend our citizens.”
The rockets that Islamic Jihad have fired into Israel constituted war crimes, the prime minister said, sparking a dispute with MKs from the Joint List.
“The central principle is simple: On one side, there are fighters, and on the other side, civilians,” he said. “You can cross this line accidentally, but not intentionally. Every army, [even] among the most moral armies in the world, accidentally hits innocent people, but that is not a war crime. A war crime is what the terrorists in Gaza do when they shoot at us… They intentionally aim at civilians, at residential neighborhoods. When they shoot a residential neighborhood in Ashkelon, what do they think, that the army is there? It’s nonsense.”
Netanyahu said that he repeatedly denied requests from the defense establishment to attack, because he wanted to minimize harm to people who are not involved in attacking Israel.
“That is completely different from what those terrorists do – and there are MKs here who are defending them,” he stated.
MK Ahmed Tibi of the Joint List was removed from the plenum for repeatedly interrupting Netanyahu. As he was escorted out, he shouted: “Because of you, my family is threatened. Liar!”
Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman wrote on Twitter: “Netanyahu stood in the Knesset and said that the IDF doesn’t commit war crimes and does not strike civilians. What about the wife of the senior Islamic Jihad commander who was killed while she was sleeping in bed with him? What about the thousands of civilians killed in our repeated rounds of war with Gaza? They’re not civilians?”
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, said he unequivocally supports Israel’s actions in Gaza.
“Looking broadly at the Gaza Strip, our goal must be to restore deterrence – the outcome of this operation must serve as a very strong deterrent,” Gantz said. “When we have to fight, we will fight and when have to lead efforts toward neighborly relationships, we will do that also. Make no mistake – on the other side there are terrorists, not Mother Theresas. They are deliberately firing rockets onto populated areas.”