TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned Hamas that Israel will continue to do whatever it needs to combat the terrorism coming from the Gaza Strip and will accept nothing less than a blanket ceasefire, at the same time as the results of an attempt by Egypt and the UN to strike a truce deal remain unclear.
“We are in the midst of a campaign against terror in Gaza. It entails an exchange of blows; it will not end in one strike. Our demand is clear — a complete ceasefire. We will not suffice with less than this,” Netanyahu said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.
“As of now, we have destroyed hundreds of Hamas military targets, and in each round the IDF exacts an additional heavy price. I will not reveal our operational plans here; they are ready,” Netanyahu said. “Our objective is to restore the quiet to residents of the south and the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. This goal will be achieved in full.”
Israel has not agreed to a Hamas-declared ceasefire on Thursday that the terror group maintains was negotiated by Egypt and the UN, Israeli officials have said.
The ceasefire came in the wake of two intense days of fighting which saw Gaza terror groups firing over 180 rockets, injuring at least seven people and causing damage to private and commercial property as well as infrastructure throughout the southern region.
Sunday saw fewer incendiary devices being flown over the border than any other day in recent months.
Also on Sunday, Netanyahu met with senior ministers at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the next steps.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is a member of the security cabinet, raised the possibility of Israel overthrowing Hamas, as a report emerged that Hamas leaders were in Israel’s crosshairs.
“Toppling Hamas is an option, and we are closer to it than ever,” Steinitz told the Kan public broadcaster.
“The last round [of fighting] severely harmed the production of missiles and drones. We as a [security] cabinet should see the general picture — we have not signed a truce agreement and we are keeping our cards close to our chest,” he added.
However, other Israeli officials have said that “quiet will be met by quiet” and Israel is not seeking to enter another conflict with Hamas.
“Hamas understands very well what it has lost in the past few months; it can’t ignore it,” a senior IDF officer told the Haaretz newspaper.
Despite the apparent truce and reprieve in rocket fire, violence has continued on the border, and Israeli tanks struck two Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip Friday evening after a grenade was hurled at troops amid intense violence during mass riots at several locations along the border.