A top former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) general told a local radio station on Monday, that, if rocket fire out of Gaza does not subside, Israel may opt to hammer Gaza militants harder than in Operation Pillar of Defense in Nov., 2012.
That month-long operation saw Israeli aircraft hit some 1,500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets, with a roughly equal number of rockets fired across much of southwestern Israel, as well as longer-range rockets hitting Tel Aviv and surrounding areas to the south, and the outskirts of Jerusalem.
“I assume it’s a matter of days for us to know if we succeeded [together with other parties] to create the required calm, or if not we will certainly be prepared to carry out a larger process than the [current] spontaneous responses,” Lt.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, who also served as National Security Advisor, told Israel Radio.
Eiland’s remarks came exactly five hours before the grim discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens, hidden beneath stones in an open field near Hebron.
Israel holds the Islamist Hamas, who control the coastal enclave, responsible for the abductions and deaths of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaer, 16, and Naftali Frankel, 16, who were snatched from a hitchhiking post in the Gush Etzion bloc of communities south of Jerusalem on June 12.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday night said that “Hamas is responsible, and will pay the price” for the deaths of the three youths.
“Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created,” Netanyahu said, quoting a well-known Israeli poem about pogroms in Kishniev in 1903.
“…neither has vengeance for the blood of three pure youths, who were on their way home to meet their parents, who will not see them anymore. Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay. May the memories of the three boys be blessed,” he said in a statement.
Hamas officials, however, warned that if Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for the deaths, or for the past two weeks of rocket fire into Israel, then “the gates of hell” will open.
“If the occupiers carry out an escalation or a war, they will open the gates of hell on themselves,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.
Eiland said “harsh Israeli action against Gaza would be accepted, maybe not with encouragement, but with great understanding in Washington and most places in the world… Hamas knows this and therefore there is a structure of deterrence… [without deescalation].
“I estimate that there will be an Israeli action, or at least there will be a call for an Israeli action that is much more massive – like Operation Pillar of Defense maybe even bigger than it,” Eiland said, “in order to achieve a renewed deterrence for another period of a year or two.”
On June 29, Hamas terrorists launched at least 16 rockets at Israel, in the first such attacks since Nov., 2012 attributable to the Islamist group.