Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told the country to prepare for a “long campaign” that will not end without “neutralizing” Hamas’ tunnels used to funnel terrorists into Israel.
“We will not end the operation in Gaza without neutralizing the terror tunnels” whose only purpose, Netanyahu said, is to kill Israelis and their children. “We need to be ready for a long campaign until the mission is accomplished.”
When Netanyahu first announced the ground campaign in Gaza, he said the goal would focus on dismantling the tunnels.
In a phone call Sunday night, President Barack Obama urged Netanyahu to institute an “immediate, unconditional” humanitarian cease-fire, a request that was widely criticized in Israel, where Hamas’ underground network of attack tunnels are viewed as an immediate threat.
Netanyahu appealed to the international community to demand the demilitarization of Gaza and said it must be part of any arrangement.
Addressing the Israeli public, Netanyahu said Monday had been a “difficult day.” Israel said nine soldiers were killed in separate attacks and that rockets were launched as far north as Haifa.
Netanyahu appealed to Israelis for their determination to fight “a murderous terror group that wants to destroy us.”
Citizens of Israel cannot live under the threat of missiles from above and tunnels from below, Netanyahu said, branding the threat “killing from above and killing from below.”
The prime minster also lambasted the international community for allowing money to be funneled to Hamas, which has used it to purchase the cement used to build the more than 30 tunnels.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who spoke after Netanyahu, said Israel would not hesitate to expand the Gaza operation in an effort to further harm Hamas.