JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said there is a 95 percent chance that Israel will launch a major offensive into Gaza to confront Hamas soon.
“I have come to the conclusion that there is a 95% chance it is inevitable that we will have to launch a large campaign to restart Gaza,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“We are ready, and the plans have been formulated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the military,” Bennett said. “We will give one very last chance to the terrorists to maintain quiet. But I don’t believe them. They are liars, murderers, and we are going to have to act. It’s always a last resort to go to war. But this time it will be on our terms with our timing and with a very clear vision of the day after.”
His warning came just hours after the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group launched more than 80 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli communities on the Gaza border.
No Israelis were seriously wounded during the violence on Sunday and Monday. The IDF said the Iron Dome intercepted about 90 percent of rockets aimed at populated areas while the rest landed in open areas or only caused structural damage to buildings. The military said one rocket landed in an empty children’s playground.
Israel responded by hitting PIJ targets in Gaza and Syria. Egypt and the U.N. brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza that went into effect late Monday evening.
Bennett said his priority is to protect Israel’s southern community and give them “sustainable peace and quiet.”
“If Israelis in the South can’t sleep at night, terrorists in Damascus won’t sleep,” Bennett said, referring to airstrikes the IAF carried out Sunday night against PIJ targets, which he said killed eight terrorists near the Syrian capital city. “I want to give hope to the people of the South, to bring them quiet,” he said.
Bennett did not say specifically when he plans to launch an offensive, but said he wanted the Hamas terror group controlling Gaza to have a “painful spring.”
He said the coming operation “will be completely different” than previous campaigns, and it will hopefully “reset” Gaza and allow years of quiet.