Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pre-empted the usual calls for restraint in the wake of an escalation of Hamas attacks Monday morning and told Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting that Israel "is prepared to escalate."
"The world must realize that Israel won't sit by idly in the face of attempts to attack us. We are prepared to escalate our actions," he said.
The latest barrage of more than 60 mortar shells, rockets and Katyusha missiles on southern Israel may be the last straw for the government and the IDF, whose policies of restraint have left tens of thousands of southern Israeli residents living for years with what has become a routine of trauma, often accompanied by destroyed homes, injuries and death.
Southern Israel has been under intense fire ever since the Sharon government carried out the expulsion of Jews from Gaza and the withdrawal of all Israeli military personnel in the summer of 2005.
The government ordered the IDF to carry out the three-week Operation Cast Lead operation in the winter of 2008-09, which halted the missile attacks that were beginning to threaten the southern edge of Israel’s industrial center in metropolitan Tel Aviv.
The result of the retaliation was a lull in attacks, but one which lasted less than two months.
After nearly five more years of terrorist attacks, limited retaliations, more attacks and verbal threats from Israel, several Cabinet ministers appeared Sunday morning to be more prepared to back up words with actions in the wake of Hamas’ continued use of more advanced weapons, such as the anti-tank Kornet missile.
Hamas also is known to have longer-range missiles that can strike Tel Aviv.
Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter on Sunday called Gaza “a terrorist state” that necessitates Israel to think about different measures.
Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon told Voice of Israel government radio, “We aren’t going to let this stand….. We have many ways of exacting a price from the other side.”
He did not affirm or deny that another Cast Lead-style invasion may be carried out.
“Everything is being considered,” he said.
Hamas, which previously has left other terrorist organizations to take responsibility for Saturday night and Sunday morning’s barrage, decided to join the fray and took “credit” for rocket strikes that bombarded the development town of Sderot and surrounding agricultural farms.
One factory sustained a direct rocket hit, and at least two cars were damaged Sunday morning.