Air raid sirens sounded across southern Israel for the second straight day on Monday, with the Israel Defence Forces reporting Sunday that they had preemptively attacked cells of a militant group reportedly preparing to fire rockets at Israel in neighboring Gaza and Syria.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the IDF may have no choice but to carry out a military operation in Gaza if Hamas and its affiliates don’t stop firing rockets.
“I am not hurrying into war. I know the price that our soldiers and the families of the fallen pay,” Netanyahu said Monday, his remarks quoted by The Jerusalem Post. But “we will do what it takes to bring back total security for the residents of the south,” he added.
“Woe to Hamas and Islamic Jihad when that day comes! It’s their choice,” Netanyahu warned.
Earlier Monday, speaking to Army Radio, the prime minister warned that a military operation in Gaza may be inevitable. “If you don’t shoot them, we will shoot you. I’m talking about a war. I only go to war as a last option, but we have prepared something you can’t even imagine,” he was quoted as saying. The interview was cut short as sirens went off in the country’s south for a second consecutive day.
This was the second time Netanyahu has given Hamas this kind of mysterious warning. Earlier this month, he warned that the IDF was preparing “a big surprise” for Gaza militants, saying it would be “the surprise of their lives,” and adding that it would “be different from anything that came before,” without elaborating.
Air raid sirens wailed across southern Israel on Sunday, hours after Israeli troops shot one Palestinian national dead and wounded several others, claiming the men were trying to plant a bomb on the border fence between Gaza and Israel. Palestinian media said the men were farmers trying to retrieve the remains of another man killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Hamas fired 21 rockets into Israel on Sunday, with 13 of them intercepted by the country’s Iron Dome air defence network. Another barrage of rockets was fired Monday, with the IDF reporting the interception of five of 14 projectiles.
Also on Sunday, Israeli warplanes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza and Syria, alleging that the group was preparing to attack Israel.
Tensions on the Israel-Gaza border have remained high after the unveiling of Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ Israeli-Palestinian peace plan last month. Hamas has rejected the plan, while their Fatah rivals in the West Bank similarly said the plan belonged in the “garbage can of history.”
Gaza tensions complicate the political situation in Israel, with the country set to go to the polls next week for a third round of voting after elections in April and September 2019 failed to allow Netanyahu’s Likud or the opposition Blue and White Party to cobble together a governing coalition.