'We were prepared for Hamas to join the battle'

IDF commander in charge of recent Gaza operation says IDF was prepared for Hamas to join fighting, correctly estimated number of rockets.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Herzi Halevi in a meeting
Herzi Halevi in a meeting
IDF spokesperson

Major General Herzi Halevi, commander of Israel's Southern Command who headed the recent Black Belt operation in Gaza, on Monday morning spoke to Army Radio about the fighting.

"Wherever there are civilians, there definitely will be IDF soldiers," he said. "The connection with all of the Gaza area towns is especially important, we have good understandings and we are very proud of how Sderot and the other border towns are developing."

"I promise that we are working very hard, we can't promise results. We know that Sderot is right next to Gaza. That we can't change. After all of this, we know how to put in effort so that it will be better here."

Regarding Operation Black Belt, Halevi said: "The actions were successful. We went to remove a ticking time bomb, Baha Abu Al Ata, a senior Islamic Jihad official who worked hard to harm the security of Israelis living on the Gaza border, Israeli civilians. [This man also] severely harmed residents of Gaza. We took upon ourselves the merit and obligation to act against a specific target."

"Our estimates regarding the number of rockets which would be fired after the elimination of Baha Abu Al Ata were pretty accurate," he added. "We will know to do things more accurately next time."

"We were also prepared for Hamas to join in. If they had joined, then we would have known how to significantly hit Hamas, causing it severe damage. I am happy Hamas did not join."

Regarding the situation in Gaza itself, Halevi said: "In Gaza there are 2.1 million people. It's the State of Israel's interest that the situation there be a bit better, it's a security interest. Regulation is an issue for the political echelon."

When asked about the attack on Deir al Balah, when eight Gazans were killed, Halevi said: "When we attack a wide range of targets, things like this can happen. This isn't the result we wanted. We didn't know a family lived there. If we would have known, I assume we would have changed the method of attack."

The IDF has a "moral obligation, rooted deep in the IDF's value system, to bring back every soldier," he added, noting that in the case of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, the two "unfortunately fell in battle, and we're talking about returning their bodies, and bringing the bodies back to Israel for burial is a lofty goal."

"We are putting much effort into this in the IDF, and we are examining various options," he added.