Appearing on Al-Jazeera television Thursday, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel was prepared to do whatever was necessary to stop Hamas terrorists from attacking Israel. Bennett labeled as "nonesense" Hamas claims that it was Israel that “started” the most recent round of the conflict by cracking down on terrorists in Judea and Samaria.
Hamas, he said, has been firing rockets at Israel for years, and had escalated those attacks significantly even before the kidnapping of three Israeli teens last month, and the subsequent Israeli mass crackdown on Hamas terrorists in Judea and Samaria.
Fortunately, said Bennett, Israel had the technological means to keep Hamas rockets at bay.
"The Iron Dome and other sophisticated technologies keep Hamas rockets away from our cities," he said. "But would any other country in the world tolerate attacks on its people, its families? No other country would. We will hunt Hamas down until they stop these attacks."
On Thursday, Hamas sources said that some 40 people had died in the first two days of Operation Protective Edge. When Bennett's interviewer accused Israel – and Bennett, as a part of the government - of "killing civilians," Bennett replied that it was Hamas that was doing the killing, by turning Gaza residents into human shields.
"Hamas has missile-launchers hidden in homes and in schools," he said. "I myself was a commando fighter in Gaza and I saw missile-launchers in the living room of a home. When you do this you are killing your own children. Hamas is clearly responsible for the very unfortunate death of Arab citizens."
He pointed out that Israel left Gaza nine years ago. "They promised to turn it into the Singapore of the Middle East," with a flowering economy and opportunity for all, said Bennett. "Instead they have turned into the hell of the Middle East, a terror state under our nose. We are going to fight and win."
"No one in Israel desires war, but when we are forced to we will fight to defend ourselves, and we will do it forcefully," Bennett added. "We will hunt down the leaders of the terrorists, the missile-launchers and the builders of the tunnels."
When questioned about Hamas leader Khaled Meshal's call for international action against Israel, Bennett noted that he was doing so because Hamas is under severe "pressure and distress". Israel had offered Hamas several times an opportunity to restore a state of calm, but instead the terror group chose to increase its attacks. "And I don't see the world rushing to help Hamas, because everyone realizes that this is a terror group."
As far as UN calls for calm, Bennett said that as long as Hamas continued to fire missiles at Israel, "there is no place for a cease-fire. We are going continue expanding our operation and get to their headquarters, we will get to anyone that shoots at an Israeli citizen."
A ground offensive is not out of the question, either.
"I see that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is under great stress, and that's a good thing," Bennett said. Ending that pressure would be simple. "All Hamas has to do is stop firing at us."