Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon met with several brigades operating in Gaza on Wednesday, to provide encouragement and bolster their spirits.
Ya'alon first spoke with the Golani Brigade Commander, Col. Gen. Rasan Alian, who returned to command his unit on Tuesday after being seriously wounded by shrapnel.
Alian noted that the operation was progressing well, and noted that his soldiers wanted to "deepen the maneuver" even further - and are just "waiting for orders."
The Defense Minister commended Alian for "adhering to the mission" and added that "you will continue to press on until you complete the mission - successfully."
During the visit, Ya'alon said that he was impressed with the operation's progress in uncovering terror tunnels.
"[The operation] is very successful so far," he said. "[But] Hamas is trying to cause more casualties here, and we must remain vigilant - its highest goal is to kidnap a soldier."
"We are preparing the next stages of the fighting after dealing with the tunnels and you need to be ready for any mission," Ya'alon added. "You need to be ready for more important steps in Gaza and the units that are now on standby need to prepare to go in."
Ya'alon added that Hamas had targeted Israeli troops from the Al-Wafa Hospital in Gaza in recent days, prior to the IDF's targeted attack on Wednesday.
"Hamas uses its civilians as human shield," Ya'alon said. "After we ascertained that it was deserted, the Air Force attacked the building and there were large secondary explosions inside it, testimony to the amount of armaments it contained."
Ya'alon stated, overall, that progress has been good - and encouraged the IDF to stay resolute and continue on.
"Our achievements so far are very good," he said. "We have uncovered the vast majority of the tunnels, and the process of destroying them is underway."
"This is important work," he continued. "The mission being completed here is very professional and very thorough."
"Beyond the tunnel mission itself, many of you have also come in contact with Hamas terrorists themselves and have clashed with them," he added. "Many of our friends have fallen in battle. The pain is immense."
"We need to bite our lip and continue on," he declared. "The responsibility on our shoulders is enormous. We need to make sure that in Nahal Oz and Alummim, Kerem Shalom and Nir Am, residents can live in peace and security."
Operation Protective Edge began sixteen days ago; the IDF launched a ground offensive Thursday.