Israeli official: We will preemptively strike Hamas rockets

Cabinet minister close to Prime Minister Netanyahu says Israel will no longer wait for Gaza terrorists to fire first.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A senior Likud cabinet minister close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israel has changed its policy and in the future will strike first to prevent terrorist rocket attacks on Israeli population centers from Gaza.

In an interview with Channel 13 News, Settlement Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said that unlike in the past, when Israel only responded after rockets were fired from Gaza, Israel would now strike preemptively when it detected that terror groups in Gaza were preparing to attack Israel.

“It is forbidden to wait for the rocket fire,” said Hanegbi, a long-time Netanyahu loyalist who has been known to be the first to float new policies in public. “The policy now and the same change that we are speaking of … is also that rearming and also the preparation for rocket fire on the day that they [terrorists] decide when [to fire], that is the signal for an Israeli attack.”

“This is a total change of the equation. We’ve never done this and the time has come now to do it,” he said.

Hangebi admitted that successive Israeli governments had made a mistake by allowing Hamas to strengthen itself militarily between conflicts.

“The State of Israel has tolerated over the years — during the decade of Netanyahu [in power] and also before him — the empowering of Hamas, and this was without a doubt a mistake,” Hanegbi said.

“I believe that this mistake was fixed consciously in the 11 days [of fighting] that passed, but this will be fixed, I hope, in an operational way that is determined and forceful” in the future, he added.

Since the first terrorist rockets were fired at Israel in 2001, Israeli policy has been to respond defensively to the attacks, but not to initiate action to prevent the rocket fire. Since 2001 more than terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 25,000 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian targets.

Hanegbi said that Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the IDF senior echelons were in agreement on the policy change to preempt future attacks from Gaza.

The policy change appears to imply that Israeli intelligence is now able to obtain sufficient evidence indicating when terror groups intend to open fire. During the recent fighting, Israel claimed it had detailed knowledge of the extensive military tunnel system the Iran-back Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups had built in a bid to thwart an Israel ground invasion.

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However, instead of sending in troops on the ground, the IDF said it used air force planes to drop precision bombs that destroyed kilometers of the tunnels.