Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today visited a southern Israeli town bordering Gaza that was pummelled with rockets over the weekend from the strip and told community leaders there that Israel is engaged in a "lengthy battle".
Netanyahu visited a local kindergarten and pledged that Israel would put an end to the rocket fire and a Gaza militant campaign of sending incendiary kites and balloons across the border that have ignited fires damaging Israeli farms and nature reserves.
Hamas will face a "wall of steel" if it keeps up its aggression against Israel, Netanyahu warned, adding, however, that the threat won't disappear overnight. "It doesn't end in one strike," Netanyahu said. "We know we are engaged in a lengthy battle."
On Saturday, the Israeli military struck several Hamas military compounds and flattened a number of its training camps. Hamas retaliated with more than 200 rockets and mortars toward Israeli communities.
After Hamas accepted an Egypt-mediated cease-fire late Saturday, the situation calmed down but flaming kites and balloons continued to waft over into Israel, with the military signalling a new policy of striking back immediately.
"There is no such thing as a cease-fire that does not include the flaming kites and balloons," he said. "If this is not understood through my words, it will be understood through the military's actions."
Yesterday evening, the military announced that following a "situation assessment" it reinforced its Iron Dome batteries in central Israel and in the country's south and called up a small number of reserve army soldiers.
The Iron Dome shot down more than 20 projectiles over the weekend. With Israel focused on efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military foothold in neighbouring Syria, it has been wary of escalating violence in Gaza.
But the extensive offensive appeared aimed at signalling to Hamas that it was unafraid to engage if necessary. The flare-up came after months of near-weekly border demonstrations organized by Hamas to protest the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
Over 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began on March 30. Israel says it is defending its sovereign border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli civilians and soldiers.
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