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May 16, 2021 12:52 pm
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Netanyahu: ‘We Will Do Whatever It Takes to Degrade Hamas’ Terrorist Capabilites’

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Streaks of light are seen as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards central Israel as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 16, 2021 REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel’s security cabinet has decided to continue its military operation in Gaza with full force as heavy rocket barrage is being fired at southern Israel and international pressure mounts to end the fighting.

“We will do whatever it takes to degrade Hamas’ terrorist capabilities which will take time. I will do what I have to do to protect the lives of Israelis and to restore peace,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Hamas is taking huge sums to build terror tunnels, rockets, they’re not building Gaza. They’re not interested in any kind of coexistence. Any objective observer can see that Hamas are out to destroy Israel, and not a partner.”

Israel has come under increasing scrutiny after striking a multi-story building in Gaza that housed civilian media offices, including the Associated Press. The Israeli army has argued that the building contained military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of Hamas, noting that it provided advance warning to civilians in the building and allowed sufficient time for them to evacuate the site, resulting in no reported casualties.

Asked about the incident, Netanyahu said Israelis possessed intelligence that the Gaza City building that housed the international press also housed Hamas offices, without offering specific proof, adding, “It is a perfectly legitimate target.”

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Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu held a situation cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, with Israel’s Defense Minister, the IDF Chief-of-Staff, and the heads of the Shin Bet, the Mossad and the National Security Council. Plans for ceasefire talks were not discussed.

“If Hamas thought they could just fire rockets and sit back and enjoy immunity, that’s false,” Netanyahu said. “We are targeting a terrorist organization that is targeting our civilians, and hiding behind their civilians, using them as human shields.”

Also on Sunday, Ambassador Gilad Erdan spoke at the United Nations Security Council today, arguing to its members that they have a choice: “not to condemn Hamas and surrender to terror or back Israel’s right to defense and call to dismantle Hamas’ terror infrastructure.”

“The hostilities must stop. The fighting must stop immediately,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the UN emergency Security Council session on the escalation in Israel and Gaza.

Meanwhile, the European Union announced that it is convening a special meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday to call for the immediate end of the Gaza operation. The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, announced that the meeting will deal with “the ongoing escalation between Israel and Palestine and the unacceptable number of civilian casualties.”

“We will coordinate and discuss how the EU can best contribute to end the current violence,” Borrell stated.

Since the beginning of operation “Guardian of the Walls,” almost 3,100 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory as of Sunday evening, of which about 450 errant launches fell in the Strip. The Iron Dome air defense system has intercepted about 1,210 rockets.

In response to the rocket fire targeting central and southern Israel, over the last 24 hours, IDF fighter jets and aircraft struck over 90 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip. As part of the continuing wave of strikes on the Hamas “Metro” tunnel system, about 30 targets were attacked by IDF fighter jets using about 100 guided armaments. The Israeli military has also published a list of more than 30 central Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad figures, which were killed during airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, 188 people, including 55 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the past week.

“Hamas is violently trying to take over the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. They have fired over 2000 rockets at Israel from population centers in Gaza using Palestinians as human shields,” said Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. “Israel will continue to defend its citizens by all means necessary.”

Editor’s note: this article will be updated with developing events

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