Ya'alon Vows to 'Cripple Terrorism'
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon spoke Saturday night, providing updates on progress with Operation Protective Edge as it wraps up its twenty-sixth day.
Ya'alon first related to Hamas's attacks on - and abduction of - IDF soldiers.
"Hamas members are those who violated the cease-fire led by the United States and the United Nations," Ya'alon stated. "They are the ones who killed Major Benaya Sarel and First Sgt. Liel Gidoni, of blessed memory, and kidnapped Second Lt. Hadar Goldin."
"I would like now to give strength and support to Goldin's family, as well as the family of Golani soldier Oron Shaul, of blessed memory, whose gravesite remains unknown at this time," he added.
Ya'alon then turned to the matter of the IDF's future in Gaza.
"We are near completion of our mission to destroy and neutralize terror tunnels in the Gaza offensive, and so far very impressive work has been carried out by commanders and IDF soldiers," he said. "This operation is not simple; it is very complex, it is backed by excellent intelligence information, and it is worth noting the commanders' and fighters' determination and devotion to the mission."
"We have paid a heavy price during this mission," he continued. "Our best soldiers have fallen and been injured in battles for the realization of this important task: removing the threats to communities near the Gaza border fence."
"Concurrent with the destruction of the tunnels, the IDF continues to significantly damage Hamas and other terrorist organizations, especially through powerful airstrikes," he added.
The Defense Minister vowed to continue to fight Hamas.
"There will be no mistakes: Hamas will pay a heavy price [for its terror]," he said. "We are determined and uncompromising in our efforts to continue destroying the terrorist infrastructure; we have killed hundreds of terrorists who have attacked us with weapons, missiles, and rockets."
"In one night alone, the IDF has destroyed the facility of the Islamic University in Gaza, where under the guise of academic development in chemical labs, they have built rockets which are fired at Israel," he continued. "We are determined to continue to strike Hamas. We will not compromise the security of Israeli citizens."
Ya'alon then thanked IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Southern Command Chief Shlomo Turgeman, the IDF, the Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet), for "showing commitment, determination, and professionalism" and "just doing a great job."
"Aware of the danger, but also the size of the mission, our soldiers operate from the belief in the righteousness of the campaign," he added. "They are unable, and we will not, rest until they return peace and security to the citizens of Israel."
"We have no illusions about Hamas," he continued. "They are a murderous terrorist organization that lies again and again, and uses its citizens as human shields."
"Every citizen [of Gaza] who is injured causes us pain," he added. "Yet we know the residents of the Gaza Strip voted Hamas terrorism into power, founded a Hamas terror state that fires at Israel from hospitals, schools, clinics, and mosques."
"Where Hamas is - terrorism is," he concluded. "And we will cripple that terrorism uncompromisingly, at full force."
Earlier Saturday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the operation "for as long as necessary" - despite reports that the IDF was continuing to pull out of some areas of Gaza.
The IDF, meanwhile, is still looking for Lt. Goldin, who was kidnapped by terrorists on Friday.