Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday the overnight flare-up with Gaza is evidence Israel “isn’t interested in an escalation, but we will do everything it takes to defend ourselves, and that may take time.”
He spoke after an exchange of fire saw the Israel Defense Forces order schools closed in southern and central Israel, including the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, as Iran-backed terror groups in the Gaza Strip began firing dozens of rockets at cities and towns throughout the country in retaliation for the assassination of Palestinian Islamic Jihad senior commander Baha Abu al-Ata.
WATCH: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks today at the joint statement with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and ISA Director Nadav Argaman (English captions available).
Full remarks:https://t.co/DnHPOVPbJN pic.twitter.com/MlyLRPvXKc
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) November 12, 2019
“We are prepared for several days of battle with an aerial defense shield, including in the center of the country,” IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters Tuesday morning.
Such was the ferocity of the exchange that stores in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center mall were shuttered amid rocket attacks.
Israel at war: Most stores in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center mall shuttered amid rocket attacks pic.twitter.com/WFwPEa4x74
— Aaron Klein (@AaronKleinShow) November 12, 2019
Speaking at a press conference alongside Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet security agency head Nadav Argaman, Netanyahu called the Islamic Jihad commander Israel assassinated early Tuesday morning a “ticking bomb.”
He said the defense cabinet had approved the operation to kill Baha Abu al-Ata 10 days ago. It was done overnight after the defense establishment identified “a unique window of opportunity to carry out this action with maximum chances of success and minimum chances of hurting uninvolved [civilians].”
“We proved that it’s possible to hurt murderers while causing minimum damage to those who are innocent. Anyone who thinks they can hurt our civilians and remain unscathed is mistaken,” the prime minister added, reaffirming Israel’s fundamental right to self defense.
The IDF also outlined its position:
Islamic Jihad in Gaza aims to kill Israeli civilians.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) November 12, 2019
Shin Bet chief Argaman reiterated Netanyahu’s statement that the timing of the operation stemmed from operational considerations.
“The operation tonight was at the best time from a professional-operational viewpoint, we were capable of hitting him at the right time and in the right place,” he said.