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July 31, 2014 10:15 am

Netanyahu Says ‘Protective Edge’ Goal is Demilitarization of Gaza

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Cherie Cullen / WikiCommons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Cherie Cullen / WikiCommons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said the goal of Operation Protective Edge is the demilitarization of Gaza, which Israel Defense Forces will pursue, “with or without a ceasefire.”

Speaking at the start of a special Cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, “As of now, we have neutralized dozens of terrorist tunnels and we are determined to complete this mission, with or without a ceasefire, and therefore I will not agree to any proposal that does not allow the IDF to complete this work which is important for the security of Israel’s citizens.”

“Hamas has taken harsh blows from the IDF and ISA,” he said. “We have struck hard at thousands of terrorist targets: command centers, rocket arsenals, production facilities, launch areas and hundreds of terrorists have been killed.”

“These achievements and the neutralization of the tunnels are only the first stage in the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. The U.S., the EU and other important elements in the international community have accepted our position and I must say that this was not an easy thing to achieve but we did it together, with hard work.”

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“We are working around the clock, shoulder to shoulder, sagaciously and responsibly, for the people of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Naturally, we cannot share with the public all of the information and all of the considerations at our disposal. We have an orderly plan and we are acting accordingly.”

He sent condolences to the families of fallen soldiers. “I speak with them daily, with the parents and family members who have sacrificed what is most precious to them on behalf of our country,” Netanyahu said. “I have spoken with dozens of families. My wife and our sons have visited many families as well. I tell them with a heavy heart that their sons have fallen in the most just of campaigns – guarding our common home.”

“I would like to say to the citizens of Israel: You serve as examples. Your resilience in the face of our enemies is impressive. It causes deep appreciation around the world. I must say that your strong stand is a national force multiplier that enables us to conduct this campaign in a sagacious and responsible manner, in a way that will give the best possible results for the State of Israel and its people.”

But he also called on the government, and his cabinet, specifically, to remain unified in support of the troops. The call came after factions in his coalition government were reported by the Israel press to be jostling for advantage.

“A unified leadership is important for the success of the campaign and it is very important for the people of Israel,” he said. “Unity among the people gives us the strength to continue our hard and responsible work. I have no doubt that this unity provides additional strength to our soldiers who are fighting on the ground.”

“And yet there is a minority among the public which, precisely at these times, chooses to take a more extreme position on this or that side. I say to you: Do not harm the special unity that we have. Mind your words and be careful with your deeds. And, more than anything, government ministers must serve as personal examples for the public at large. At this time, the nation expects all of us, especially government ministers, to unite behind the goal. When our soldiers are fighting the enemy and endangering their lives on behalf of us all, we owe them this. The more we are united, the stronger we are.”

In a response to a statement to the Cabinet from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief-of-Staff Benny Gantz, Netanyahu said: “The IDF is a moral army without peer. It is vigorously fighting an enemy whose brutality is without peer. It tries, as much as possible, to avoid harming civilians.”

“We in the leadership think about the soldiers. Every IDF soldier is precious to us. At this time, on behalf of the entire government and people of Israel, I would like to send my best wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded. We know your bravery and your desire to rejoin your comrades. I have visited some of them. Right now, their doctors are their commanders but we know that they are led by the spirit of the entire nation.”

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