(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Sunday, 20 July 2014), at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, issued the following statement:
"The heart of the entire nation is with the families of the fallen. We feel your pain. We bow our head to your sons who fell so that we can continue living here. On behalf of the Government and the entire People of Israel, I would like to express the deep pain that we feel. We send our condolences to the parents, children, spouses and families of the IDF soldiers who have fallen in defense of the State of Israel.
I would like to say to you that there is no war more just than that in which your sons and ours heroically fell. We will complete the mission that we have begun. We will restore quiet and security to the south, the center and the entire country.
On behalf of all of you, citizens of Israel, I would like to send best wishes for a quick recovery to all the wounded soldiers. I believe that each one of us knows someone who is participating in the campaign, and mutual guarantee is also the secret of our strength. We must be strong in difficult days such as today as well as those that are likely to come. We are in a war for our home. Our forces are currently active in the field; they are operating professionally, with determination, great strength, great firepower and great strength of spirit.
Soldiers of the IDF, I would like to tell you that the citizens of Israel are behind you and are praying for your welfare.
To the dear families, I would like to say that I am aware of your concern, we all share it. We are doing our utmost to secure the lives of our citizens and of our soldiers.
Israel did not choose to enter this campaign but from the moment it was forced on us, we will carry it out to achieve the goal of restoring quiet to Israel's citizens for a prolonged period while inflicting a significant blow on the infrastructures of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza. We are not deterred and we will continue to act as necessary. The current operation is necessary to for the security of Israel's citizens.
More tunnels were discovered during last night's action, tunnels that are added to the many others we have found, some of which had already reached Israeli territory. Hamas invested years of work and vast capital in them in order to perpetrate large-scale terrorist attacks and carry out abductions. We found handcuffs and sedatives. There is no question here. This was a strategic network for Hamas in which it had installed fortifications, electricity, cables, all in order to infiltrate, carry out large-scale attacks and kidnap.
The threat of the tunnels is not new to us. We have foiled several attempts in the past to perpetrate attacks through them, but the current operation is much broader in scope. This carries considerable risks but it is vital because if these tunnels had not been discovered, the results could have been much worse. Tunnels like those we have exposed recently could have been opened in our communities, inside kindergartens or dining halls and the results could have been deadly.
This indeed was Hamas' plan, and we are acting against it. Just as I said at the outset of our operation against the tunnels, there is no guarantee of 100% success, but we are doing our utmost to attain the maximum, and I must say that the results that IDF soldiers have achieved thus far in the field are above predictions and beyond expectations.
In the days before we commenced ground action, we were engaged in building the diplomatic and military infrastructure for it and we did this in several areas simultaneously. First of all, we acceded to the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and also to two additional proposals, the UN proposal for a humanitarian ceasefire and the Red Cross ceasefire. These measures, along with the personal talks we held with many world leaders, built the diplomatic infrastructure thanks to which we are currently receiving international credit for the operation. This can never be taken for granted; it must be invested in.
We have received the recognition of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France and many other important countries of Israel's right to defend itself and of our right to restore quiet and security to our communities and our citizens. A short time ago, I spoke again with US President Barack Obama and I thanked him for America's support of Israel at this time.
Given our acceptance of the ceasefire, it cannot be claimed that it is Israel which has chosen escalation; therefore, it is Hamas that is responsible for the results of its aggression. We are making every effort not to harm the residents of Gaza, whereas Hamas is making effort so that the residents of Gaza are harmed. We regret every injury to innocents but insofar as they are harmed, Hamas - and Hamas alone - is to blame.
Hamas built two strategic networks to attack the State of Israel: Rockets and tunnels. The IDF has significantly struck at both. IDF action, both defensive and offensive, has neutralized the effectiveness of the rockets. Hamas thought that by means of this network it could break our home front, and of course Iron Dome has intercepted most of the rockets it has fired at our cities. We have invested considerable capital in it and it is proving itself.
Also, the air force has attacked and is attacking; it has destroyed missile launchers and many rocket production facilities in the Gaza Strip. Of course, the IDF is still carrying out this mission. Regarding the tunnels, the current operation has significantly damaged Hamas's underground offensive capability against the State of Israel.
I would like to express deep appreciation to all soldiers and commanders taking part in the fighting, including the reservists who have left family and home behind and joined the campaign. I would like to express special appreciation for IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz who is leading the IDF. He asked just now to be with the men in the south, and the Defense Minister and I of course let him. We wish him, and the commanders and soldiers of the IDF, all of the success which we know the people of Israel need.
Along with the Chief-of-Staff and the Defense Minister, we are working together for the same goal and purpose. We are working shoulder-to-shoulder, according to an orderly and methodical plan, in the current battle against terrorism, which is part of our historic campaign against the terrorism that has been trying to attack us since the establishment of the state. In every battle and in every campaign, there are complex and difficult events, as there have been in this one; however, the military operation is proceeding as planned and it will be expanded as necessary - until quiet returns to Israel's citizens.
At the outset we knew, and I also said, that this could be a long campaign but from the history of our people we know a simple truth - the eternal people do not fear a long road. We are proud of our heroic soldiers. With the Almighty's help, and theirs, we will succeed."