Liberman warns of ‘painful’ military Gaza operation during visit to Israel’s south

“Hamas is leading us down a path of ‎inevitability, where we would have to launch a wide-‎scale, painful operation in Gaza,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said during his tour of the Gaza border region.

By: Hayom

Unless Hamas curbs its arson terrorism and border ‎riots campaign, Israel may have no choice but to ‎launch a full-fledged military operation in the Gaza ‎Strip, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned ‎Friday.‎

Liberman toured the city of Sderot, 1.5 miles from ‎Gaza, on Friday, saying that Israel must maintain ‎the deterrence generated opposite Hamas.

”We are handling things with restraint and ‎responsibility, but the real problem is the erosion ‎in deterrence and the loss of the residents’ sense ‎of security. ‎

‎”Hamas is leading us down a path of ‎inevitability, where we would have to launch a wide-scale operation in Gaza that will be much more painful [for them] than Operation Protective Edge. Hamas is solely ‎responsible for this,” he said. ‎

Liberman stressed that while “there are no direct ‎talks with Hamas” Israel is “dealing with all the ‎relevant elements.” The defense minister was most ‎likely referring to Egyptian intelligence officials, ‎who have been trying to broker a sustainable ‎cease-fire between Israel and Hamas since last ‎weekend. ‎

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Gaza-based terrorists fired 200 projectiles on ‎Israeli communities near the border on Saturday, ‎triggering a forceful Israeli response that pounded ‎dozens of Hamas assets in the coastal enclave.‎

Egypt was able to broker a tenuous truce, but while ‎Palestinian rocket fire largely ceased, the arson ‎attacks that have been scorching thousands of acres ‎of forest and farmlands in the area for three months ‎continued to rage on.‎

Commenting on Saturday’s bombing in Gaza, Liberman said the Israeli Air Force “dropped nearly 50 tons ‎of bombs on strategic Hamas positions. I think they ‎got the message and if they didn’t – we’ll continue.”‎

Speaking of the simmering tensions on the border, ‎which some hedged this week were nearing boiling ‎point, he said, “We’ve all seen the reports and ‎heard that kites and fires are no reason to launch a ‎war, but anyone looking around at the thousands of ‎acres of burned fields understands this is not a ‎reasonable situation.‎ We are acting responsibly, but we will not tolerate ‎a situation where residents here have to run to ‎‎[bomb] shelters 20 times a day.”‎

Liberman reiterated that “if Hamas leaves us no ‎choice, we will have to launch a military operation ‎in Gaza. And it won’t be for show – it will be ‎painful.”‎

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He urged the residents of Gaza to pressure Hamas to ‎curb terrorist attack and prevent further security ‎escalation.

‎”Hamas leaders are responsible for this situation ‎but unfortunately, ordinary Gazans will end up ‎paying the price. This is why I call on them to ‎pressure Hamas to choose another direction. We can ‎resume reasonable civilian reality and offer ‎‎[Gaza] ‎economic aid in exchange for the complete ‎‎termination of terrorism and the provocations on the ‎‎[security] fence,” Liberman said. ‎

The defense minister also addressed the criticism ‎heard from several cabinet members over the military’s ‎alleged hesitance to launch an incursion into Gaza, ‎saying, “I speak with residents [in Gaza-vicinity ‎communities] daily and I’ve never heard one ‎criticism of the IDF. There’s a lot of criticism of ‎the government, which is more than understandable, ‎but not of the military.”