Israel is preparing for what is likely to be the next Palestinian uprising if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not end by the end of the year.
The Israeli army is preparing a series of military operations aimed at stopping Hamas’ expansionism, including an offensive against Hamas’ main stronghold, the Gaza Strip, and a major operation against the Islamic Jihad.
Netanyahu said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the Israeli army would begin an offensive to “defeat” Hamas if the Islamist group was not defeated.
Netanyahus defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, also said that the military would launch a major offensive against the Gaza strip to confront Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in order to prevent it from expanding further.
Lieberman said Israel would take a number of actions, including taking a military and economic offensive to deter Hamas from launching rockets into Israel and to block its border crossings with Egypt.
“If Hamas continues to escalate and expand its operations in Gaza, the army will take military and political action to stop its expansion,” he said.
Liebins statement came after Israel said that it had thwarted a bid by Hamas to assassinate Israeli soldiers, after the group’s commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ordered a suicide attack on an army checkpoint.
Hamas has refused to let the soldiers enter Gaza and has been firing rockets at Israel.
On Friday, Israel warned it would take military action to prevent Hamas from using tunnels into Israel.
Israel’s security cabinet was set to discuss the issue at a meeting on Saturday.
Earlier on Sunday, Israel’s defense minister Avigor Lieberman said that Israel would “respond in kind” to any future attempts by Hamas or other groups to launch rockets into Israeli territory.
The Gaza Strip has been devastated by a war with Hamas, which is based in the Gaza West Bank.
The conflict has killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and wounded more than 7,000.
Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of committing war crimes in the conflict, but it has not admitted responsibility.
Hassan Abu Khdeir, the deputy commander of the Iqra al-Najjar Brigades – the main armed wing of Hamas, and Hamas’ chief military adviser – said in a televised speech that Israel had made a “grave mistake” in its handling of the crisis and that it should “take appropriate steps” to prevent such attacks.
“Israel must know that its military will respond in kind, to protect itself, its citizens and Israeli civilians,” he added.