Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon spoke on Tuesday about Operation Protective Edge, which was launched Monday night after Gaza highly escalated its rocket fire on Israel, causing sirens to be heard deep in central Israel.
The minister's comments came shortly after concluding a meeting with Maj. Gen. Eyal Eizenberg of the Homefront Command, Defense Ministry Director Dan Harel and the head of the National Emergency Authority.
Summarizing the meeting, Ya'alon said it was decided to declare "special situation" status for the communities and regional authorities up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Gaza security border.
"We are preparing for a campaign against Hamas, which won't end in just a few days. Hamas is leading the current clash to a point where it hopes to inflict a toll on our homefront," said Ya'alon.
"We need to take a deep breath. The proper conduct by the population has a decisive part in our ability not to suffer injuries," added Ya'alon, calling on residents "to listen to instructions of the Homefront Command about proximity and entering safe shelters."
Ya'alon related the early stages of the operation, saying "in recent hours we struck hard and hit dozens of Hamas assets, and the IDF continues in its offensive effort, in a manner that will inflict a very heavy toll on Hamas."
"We won't tolerate rocket fire on Israeli communities, and we are preparing to expand the operation by all means standing at our disposal so as to continue striking Hamas," added Ya'alon, praising residents and community leaders of the south.
Sources said Monday it was possible that Hamas would expand the range of attacks against Israel, and could possibly target Tel Aviv and other cities in central Israel; the news prompted the Security Cabinet to launch Operation Protective Edge, which has seen the IDF pummel over 50 terror targets in Gaza overnight, including the homes of four Hamas terror leaders.
Ya'alon's comments about expanding the operation mirror the words of Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu), who said Tuesday morning "we don't want to enter Gaza. But the current dynamics, if they don't change, will lead to that. We can't continue with small payments (i.e. small strikes on Gaza) - it needs to be much stronger."