Netanyahu: Battle with Hamas and Islamic Jihad not over yet

The Israeli prime minister hailed the IDF’s achievements in the latest round with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, adding that the battle isn’t over.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In the first official statement regarding the ceasefire with Hamas that went into informal effect at 4:30 a.m. Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he was satisfied that the IDF had hurt the terrorist organization, but added that the battle was not yet over.

“Over the last two days we struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force,” he said. “We hit over 350 targets. We struck at terrorist leaders and operatives and we destroyed terrorist buildings.”

However, he also cautioned that “The campaign is not over, and it demands patience and sagacity. We are prepared to continue. The goal has been – and remains – ensuring quiet and security for the residents of the south. I send condolences to the families and best wishes for recovery to the wounded.”

The two main terror organizations in the Gaza Strip launched some 700 rockets into southern Israel beginning Saturday morning, killing four civilians and injuring more than 80 people, some seriously.

Although this was the highest number of Israelis killed in skirmishes with Hamas since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted many of the projectiles heading to populated centers, thereby saving hundreds if not thousands of lives.

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An Israeli defense official told Ynet news that it was the Palestinians who urged a ceasefire via the Egyptians, who mediated the truce.

“The terrorist organizations were surprised by the force Israel exercised and underestimated the Israeli response,” he said. “Hamas and Islamic Jihad understood very well that the rules of the game have changed and therefore stopped the fire on their own initiative after repeated requests on their part for a cease-fire.”

According to the government, Israel has acquiesced only to returning calm for calm and not to any of the Hamas demands. Those included such things as re-expanding the fishing areas, improving Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation, and allowing in millions of dollars of Qatari cash before Ramadan, which begins Monday.

Many politicians criticized the ceasefire, including from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition partners.

MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, said “The battle with Gaza needed to end with seven hundred terrorists killed – one for every rocket fired at Israel, with heavy physical damage to Hamas, the kind that will take years for them to recover from so that it will be difficult for them to think of attacking again. We cannot force one-and-a-half million citizens in the south to head to the bomb shelters every few weeks.”

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The Code Red sirens, heard sometimes as far away as Beit Shemesh and Rehovot, sent about a sixth of Israel’s population into safe rooms, bomb shelters and stairwells to escape harm.