Netanyahu: Gaza War Could Break Out ‘At Any Time’

YERUSHALAYIM -
Arab rioters on the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90, File)

The IDF on Thursday raised its alert level along the Gaza border, deploying more soldiers and heavy equipment in anticipation of an uptick in violence in advance of next week’s election. But comments by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Friday shed a different light. Upon his return from Russia Friday morning, Netanyahu said that a major military campaign against Hamas could occur “at any time” – even before next Tuesday’s elections.

The comments were an extension of those Netanyahu made in an interview Thursday, when he told Reshet Bet that it appeared that Israel would have “no choice” but to begin a major campaign against Hamas. Netanyahu said that his approach to the Gaza issue was one of “rational thought and not panic. I will not go out to war except as a last resort. I am not prepared to endanger soldiers and civilians in order to get applause.”

But Israel is running out of patience, and out of methods to avoid that conflict, Netanyahu said. “We may have no choice but to go to war. Hamas is not preventing the attacks against us.”

On Tuesday, Gaza Arab terrorists fired rockets at Ashkelon, forcing Netanyahu to duck when the Red Alert siren sounded. The siren interrupted Netanyahu in the middle of his remarks at an election rally, sending the crowd scurrying for cover as the prime minister was hustled off by security personnel. After the all-clear signal was given, Netanyahu said that the rocket fire was a blatant attempt by Hamas to interfere in the Israeli elections.

“If Hamas is firing at us in the middle of a Likud event, it would seem that they don’t want us in power,” the prime minister said when he returned to the podium.

Meanwhile, in a statement Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said that if a war does break out, “the ferocity of Israeli fire that will greet the enemy will be unlike anything they have ever experienced.”

Speaking at a ceremony honoring IDF fallen in northern Israel, Kochavi said that the new urban terrorist methods used by Israel’s enemies – as opposed to the orderly armies of yesteryear – had brought about a new philosophy of defense in the IDF.

“The changes on the side of the enemy have brought about a change in our approach. Their presence in cities will no longer help them to protect themselves” at the expense of civilians, Kochavi said. “Our response to these terror acts in the next war will be significantly different than it has been in the past, and the states that allow this terror to emanate from their territory will pay a heavy price.

“The IDF has the moral responsibility to protect Israelis from the terror armies that surround it. With the interior of the country threatened by thousands of rockets and missiles, the IDF will do everything necessary to attack those responsible for these threats,” he added.