“I want to thank President Biden for his unequivocal support. You cannot equate a democracy that values life with a terror organization that glorifies death,” says the Israeli premier in a televised address.
(May 16, 2021 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night vowed that the country’s military operation against terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip would continue until the security of Israel’s citizens had been restored.
The Israeli premier also condemned the violent anti-Jewish pogroms in multiple cities across the country, as well as the “unacceptable vigilantism” of the country’s Jewish citizens.
“It has been five days since Hamas brazenly fired rockets at Jerusalem and other Israeli cities in a totally unprovoked attack,” Netanyahu said in a televised statement to the nation about an hour before Hamas made good on its threat earlier in the evening that it would be launching rockets into Tel Aviv at midnight.
“This past week, millions of Israelis were forced into bomb shelters as missiles rained down on our cities. Several Israelis have been killed. Many more have been wounded. You know and I know, no country would tolerate this. Israel will not tolerate this,” he added.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, some 120 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip on Saturday night alone. Israel’s air-defense systems downed “many dozens” of the rockets, and 11 failed to cross the Israeli border, coming down inside Gaza, said the military. Since the rocket-fire began last week, terrorist groups in Gaza have launched some 2,500 rockets at Israel, according to the IDF.
As of Sunday morning, 10 Israelis had been killed and hundreds wounded by the rocket-fire, according to Israeli media reports. A 55-year-old Ramat Gan resident was killed on Saturday, after not being able to make it to a bomb shelter in time.
In response to the ongoing assault on its home front, Israel launched “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” carrying out the heaviest strikes against Hamas since “Operation Cast Lead” in 2014.
“Israel has responded forcefully to these attacks and we will continue to respond forcefully until the security of our people is reinstated and restored,” said Netanyahu on Saturday.
“We’ve eliminated dozens of Hamas terrorists and taken out hundreds of terrorist sites, including missile launchers and buildings that Hamas used to plan and perpetrate these attacks,” he said. Israel had also destroyed Hamas’s “vast subterranean tunnel network,” he added, “significantly degrading” the terror group’s infrastructure.
Netanyahu emphasized that Hamas was committing a “double war crime” by indiscriminately attacking Israeli civilians, while at the same time using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
Israel was doing “everything possible” to protect both its own and Palestinian civilians, said Netanyahu, including warning civilians in Gaza to vacate buildings about to be targeted by Israeli strikes.
“That’s why you don’t hear of casualties from these collapsing terror towers, because we take special care to avoid these civilian casualties—exactly the opposite of Hamas,” he said.
On Saturday, the IDF brought down Gaza’s al-Jalaa building, a 12-story tower housing the Gaza offices of the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other news media. According to Israel, the building also housed Hamas military intelligence. The building had been evacuated ahead of the strike, following a warning by the IDF. The tower is one of several high-rise buildings brought down by the IDF in recent days,
The Israeli prime minister said that defeating Hamas was in the interests of all those seeking peace, stability and security in the Middle East, and expressed his thanks to the various countries that have expressed support for Israel amid the ongoing fighting.
“I want to thank the president of the United States, Joe Biden, and I want to thank the many countries, including European countries, who flew the Israeli flag in solidarity on their government buildings,” he said.
“No one should have any equivocation about the choice that is so clear here, and I want to thank President Biden for his clear and unequivocal support. You cannot equate a democracy that values life with a terror organization that glorifies death,” he added.
From the rocket attacks from Gaza, Netanyahu turned to the ongoing violent Arab riots in Israeli cities.
“I also want to say a word about the violence we have seen in recent days within Israeli towns, from Lod to Bat Yam, from Akko to Haifa. The Jewish state will not tolerate pogroms against our citizens. We will not allow our Jewish citizens to be lynched or to live in fear of murderous Arab gangs. We will not tolerate the torching of synagogues and the torching of property,” he said.
“At the same time, we will not allow Jews to take the law into their own hands and attack innocent Arabs, or lynch an innocent Arab; there was one such case … We will not allow these attacks on innocent Jews or Arabs alike. To tolerate this unacceptable vigilantism and violence is to pave a way to anarchy.”
Israel, he continued, is both a Jewish and a democratic state, in which all citizens were equal before the law, regardless of religion or ethnicity.
“I am fully confident that Israel will be able to deal with these threats from without and these threats from within. I am confident in our army. I am confident in our police. And above all, I am confident in the resolve and determination of the people of Israel,” he said.
“Just as we’ve always done, we will weather this storm and emerge stronger than ever. Thank you,” he concluded.