TEL AVIV – Israel could oust the Gaza-ruling Hamas, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday as a report emerged that the terror group’s leaders were in the IDF’s crosshairs.
“Toppling Hamas is an option, and we are closer to it than ever,” the Likud minister told the Kan public broadcaster.
Steinitz, a member of the security cabinet, added that despite Hamas’ claims to the contrary, Israel has not signed a ceasefire with the group.
Hamas declared a ceasefire on Thursday, which it said was negotiated by Egypt and the UN.
The ceasefire came in the wake of two intense days of fighting that saw Gaza terrorists 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.
Moments after a Hamas official announced the ceasefire, Israel was hit with a fresh barrage of rockets from the Strip.
“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,” Steinitz said.
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.
Haaretz also reported that Israel was mulling the assassination of senior Hamas leaders.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned Hamas that Israel will continue to do whatever it needs to combat the terrorism stemming from the Gaza Strip and will accept nothing less than a blanket ceasefire.
“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,” he said.
“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.”