Prime Minister says he will continue to operate with “firmness” as Hamas commanders are killed in renewed offensive.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip may be an extended operation, while Hamas’ armed wing confirmed that three of its top commanders were killed in an airstrike.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said that the war launched on July 8 “will be a continued campaign” aimed at restoring “calm and safety to Israeli citizens”.
“Only the guarantee of the safety of Israeli citizens and therefore I will continue to operate with firmness and insistence. Operation Protective Edge is not finished, not for a minute, we are talking about a continued campaign,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu added that he saw a “new diplomatic horizon” ahead for Israel in the region, alluding to possible diplomacy with Palestinians ahead once the war was over, according Reuters news agency.
“Amid the feeling of dramatic changes that are taking place in the region, I can also add, that there is a new diplomatic horizon for the state Israel,” he said.
Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, on Thursday confirmed that three of its prominent leaders, Mohamed Abo Shamaleh, Raed al-Attar and Mohamed Barhoum were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri also denounced Netanyahu’s speech as “a pathetic attempt to heal Israel’s psyche and the assassination threats of Hamas’ leadership reflects the extent of the occupation’s violence and their lack of seriousness in achieving a ceasefire”.
“These threats will not frighten Hamas leaders. On the contrary, we will continue to protect and defend our people in facing Israeli crimes or foolishness,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson, reporting from Gaza, said the trio had been accused by Israel in the kidnapping of its soldier named Gilad Shalit, who was freed in 2011 under a prisoner swap deal with Hamas.
She said that the military wing of Hamas had come out with very defiant statements, including warning international airlines not to fly into Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.
“However,” our correspondent said, “the political wing of Hamas, as well as Islamic Jihad [another Palestinian faction] has said that they’re willing to return to the talks in Cairo.”
She added that that their interest in talks is an “indicator of how both sides … are aware that whilst they say they’re prepared to fight, they also know that they need a political solution at some stage”.
Hamas is seeking an end to a seven-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has battered Gaza’s economy, while Israel wants guarantees that Hamas will disarm.
In nearly a week of indirect talks, Egypt appears to have made little headway in resolving the differences.
Fighting resumed on Tuesday after a week-long truce in Gaza collapsed with both sides blaming each other after Palestinian fighters launched rockets into Israel and Israel attacked “terror sites” inside the besieged enclave.
At least 21 people were killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza since the ceasefire collapsed, raising the total death toll to 2,035 since the beginning of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge”.
In a failed attempt to kill Hamas’ military commander Mohammed Deif on Tuesday, Israeli airstrikes also killed Deif’s wife and a seven-month-old son at the house of the family they were staying with.
Israel’s interior minister Gideon Saar and Netanyahu said that Deif and other commanders were legitimate targets.