Israel will keep up its military campaign in the Gaza Strip for as long as needed and with as much force as necessary, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday.
And he said that all options were "on the table" to achieve that mission.
"From the beginning, we promised to return the quiet to Israel's citizens and we will continue to act until that aim is achieved. We will take as much time as necessary, and will exert as much force as needed," he said in a public address.
"All options are on the table to return peace to the citizens of Israel."
The Israeli prime minister also threatened yesterday to exact an "intolerable price" from the Gaza Strip's dominant Hamas Islamists should there be continued attacks from the Palestinian territory.
"We do not accept a continuation of the shooting," Netanyahu told reporters. "It [Hamas] will have to understand, however long that takes, that it will pay an intolerable price, from its perspective, for continuation of the shooting."
He said troops would complete the mission of destroying a complex network of tunnels used by militants to infiltrate southern Israel before deciding on its next security objectives.
"After the completion of our activity against the tunnels, the IDF (army) will prepare to continue our activities according to security needs, and only according to our security needs, until we achieve the objective of returning security to the citizens of Israel," he said.
He also pledged to do whatever necessary to bring home 23-year-old soldier Hadar Goldin, who Israel believes was captured by Palestinian militants during an ambush in southern Gaza early on Friday.
Following the quick collapse of the ceasefire in Gaza, Netanyahu told the White House not to force a truce with Palestinian militants.
Sources familiar with conversations between Netanyahu and senior US officials, including the secretary of state, John Kerry, say the Israeli leader advised the Obama administration “not to ever second-guess me again” on the matter.
The officials also said Netanyahu said he should be “trusted” on the issue and about the unwillingness of Hamas to enter into and follow through on ceasefire talks.
The Obama administration on Friday condemned “outrageous” violations of an internationally brokered Gaza ceasefire by Palestinian militants and called the apparent capture of an Israeli soldier a “barbaric” action.
The strong reaction came as top Israeli officials questioned the effort to forge the truce, accusing the US and the United Nations of being naive in assuming Hamas would adhere to its terms. The officials also blamed the Gulf state of Qatar for not forcing the militants to comply.
Despite the collapse of the truce, Obama credited Kerry for his work with the United Nations to forge one. He lamented criticism and “nitpicking” of Kerry's attempts and said the effort would continue.
Kerry negotiated the truce with the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, in a marathon session of phone calls over several days while he was in India on an official visit. Kerry had spent much of the past two weeks in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and France trying to mediate a ceasefire, with Qatar and Turkey playing a major role because of their close ties with Hamas.
An Israeli official said the Netanyahu government viewed both Hamas and Qatar as having violated the commitment given to the US and the UN and that it expected the international community to take practical steps as part of a “strong and swift response”, especially regarding the return of the abducted soldier.
In a phone call with US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Netanyahu vented his anger, according to people familiar with the call.
Netanyahu told Shapiro the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again” and that Washington should trust his judgment on how to deal with Hamas, according to the people.
Netanyahu added that he now “expected” the US and other countries to fully support Israel's offensive in Gaza, according to those familiar with the call. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter by name.
They said Netanyahu made similar points to Kerry, who himself denounced the attack as “outrageous,” saying it was an affront to assurances to respect the ceasefire given to the United States and United Nations, which brokered the truce.
[Reports from AFP, Reuters, The Guardian]