PHOTO: Israelis protest with banners reading, 'Bibi, Give the Order! The People of Israel Want Security'
For the past several days, Israeli leaders have been stating that if Hamas and its allies cease rocket fire from Gaza, Israel will stop all retaliatory strikes and will withdraw plans for a wider military operation.
Hamas punctuated its response on Monday by firing an estimated 100 missiles, rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel.
Towns across southern Israel were hit, and at least two people were wounded. Once again, the casualty count was miraculously low considering the severity of the attack.
On Tuesday, Hamas vowed that it would continue the assault, and even strike Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem area if Israel did not back down and agree to release more jailed Palestinian terrorists. This was a day after Hamas taunted the residents of the southern city of Beersheva and warned them to flee for their lives.
Israel’s leadership had been trying to calm the Gaza situation so as to not further inflame racial tensions throughout the nation following the recent execution of three Jewish teenagers by Palestinian terrorists, and the subsequent revenge murder of a young Arab boy by Jewish extremists.
But the continued rocket fire had become too much by Tuesday morning, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a green light to “Operation Protective Edge.” At least 50 terrorist targets were hit in aerial bombardments during the predawn hours, and Israeli officials warned that a ground invasion of Gaza could follow.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that while a ground incursion into Gaza is not Israel’s “first choice,” the government will do whatever necessary to provide security to its citizens.
Speaking at the Israel Conference on Peace, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak stated, “We have to respond forcefully, with determination and reason. ”Israel cannot afford to have millions of civilians under rocket threat."
Netanyahu, meanwhile, ordered the Israeli army to prepare for a major operation and to “see it through to the end.” He did not elaborate.