Judging from statements by government officials Monday, indications were that Israel would begin a military campaign against Gaza Arab terrorists sooner rather than later, analysts said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met with foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel, said that Israel could no longer tolerate the incessant rocket attacks on Israel by Gaza Arab terrorists. If Hamas did not stop the attacks, Israel would have to act, he said.
Netanyahu, along with Homefront Security Minister Avi Dichter, met with some 100 foreign diplomats in Ashkelon, one of the cities that have in the past been targeted by Gaza Arab terrorists, and which has been hit dozens of times by Grad and Katyusha rockets and mortar shells.
Netanyahu described the tension residents of southern Israel are forced to live under by the terrorists. "If an alarm is sounded, all of us have exactly 30 seconds to find shelter. This is the situation in which one million Israelis find themselves in. That’s families, old people, children, babies – Including like the children who stand here,” Netanyahu told the ambassadors at the meeting in Ashkelon. “A million Israelis, including many little children,are targeted on a daily basis, by people who took areas that we vacated, that the Government of Israel vacated, came in there, and are now hiding behind civilians, while firing on civilians, firing on our children.
“I think the whole world understands that this is not acceptable,” Netanyahu said. “I don’t know of any of your governments who could accept such a thing. I don’t know of any of the citizens of your cities, who could find that acceptable and something that could proceed on a normal basis. It’s something that the people of Israel can’t accept and it’s something that I, as the Prime Minister of Israel, I cannot accept it.
“So we’re going to fight for the rights of our people to defend themselves. We’ll take whatever action is necessary to put a stop to this,” Netanyahu continued. “This is not merely our right, it’s also our duty, and it’s something that I think is understood not only by you, who are here in Ashkelon today, but by any fair-minded person in any fair-minded government in the world they would understand that it’s our right to defend our people, and this is what we shall do."
On a visit to a school in Netivot Monday, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar mirrrored the Prime Minister's comments, saying that “residents of southern Israel are going through a difficult period, but I am telling you in the clearest manner possible that this situation will not continue to the extent that it becomes the normal situation. We will not allow that to happen,” he said.
With that, no final decision has apparently been made. Speaking to reporters in Netivot, Sa'ar said that “the timing of a military campaign or other action will not be dictated by the terrorists. There is a great deal of activity going on, including ensuring that foreign governments understand Israel's situation. We are explaining to them that we will not continue to tolerate the situation, and we are preparing scenarios to respond to the current situation, and similar ones in the future,” Sa'ar said.
As Sa'ar visited the city Monday afternoon, a Grad rocket fired by Gaza Arab terrorists exploded next to a factory in the industrial zone of Netivot. Six people suffered from shock as a result of the attack. Witnesses said that there was a great deal of damage to the structure.
It was the second attack on the city Monday; earlier, a rocket fired at the city exploded in a residential neighborhood. That rocket caused a great deal of damage, gutting a shop near where the rocket exploded. Twenty six people were treated by medical personnel after going into shock, with some needing extensive treatment at a trauma center.