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Netanyahu Says Hamas Has Taken 'Worst Hit Since its Inception'

PM, Defense Minister brief press on developments; Netanyahu urges Jewish people to remain united as offensive continues.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 8/20/2014, 9:01 PM / Last Update: 8/20/2014, 9:39 PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon spoke to the press Wednesday, providing direction and developments on the renewed fighting with Hamas. 

"We are taking all measures to complete the campaign and the achievement of the prime goal - deterrence," he said. "We will operate with discretion, responsibility and determination."

Netanyahu said that the campaign did not end with Operation Protective Edge in Israel, and that the battle against Hamas is merely an extension of the fight against Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and Islamic State (formerly ISIS). 

"One consideration alone is before me - what is good for the State of Israel," Netanyahu said, stressing that this principle "is the only one that guides me in making decisions."

"Nothing else [guides me] - nor the left or the right or other interests," he emphasized. "My sole responsibility [now] is for the safety and peace of the citizens of Israel, and accordingly we will continue to act with a sense of responsibility and judgement."

Netanyahu said that there were significant victories against Hamas, in a reference both to the airstrikes on the home of terror leader Mohammed Deif and, perhaps, to the foiling of a Hamas coup in the Palestinian Authority (PA) earlier this week.  

"This is the worst hit Hamas has suffered since its inception," Netanyahu said. "We are determined to continue the campaign by all means, and it may be necessary."

"Hamas thinks it has exhausted us but the people of Israel are stronger," he added. "We must continue to maintain unity within us the courage and resilience of the people all of this is essential to our national strength and building blocks in achieving the task that we have set before us."

Regarding Deif - whose status remains unknown - the Prime Minister cryptically said, "terrorist commanders are a legitimate target, no one is immune." 

Prepared for a ground offensive

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon noted that the campaign will continue until peace returns to southern and central Israel.  

"I would not advise anyone to trade places with anyone living in the Gaza Strip," Ya'alon stated. 

The Defense Minister also said that he holds Hamas responsible for all casualties - civilian or otherwise - after it broke a six day-long truce by firing a constant rain of rockets on Israeli civilians. As of Wednesday night, the rocket count is nearing 200 rockets in 48 hours. 

"We will pursue the terrorists of Hamas and the organization's leaders . . . [at] every opportunity that we have," Ya'alon said. 

"I suggest you not be impressed by Hamas's bravado," Ya'alon added, stating that Hamas is very vulnerable and is suffering from huge losses at the moment. 

Ya'alon emphasized that Operation Protective Edge is conducted responsibly, judiciously, wisely and intelligently and that the government continues to work to ensure Israel's safety. 

"As one who fought all his life for the State of Israel, I keep saying: we will not rest, we will not be silent until we respond to the rocket fire," he said. "We will do so with steadfastness, determination and patience." 

He noted that Israel is prepared for a long campaign and additional ground offensives.