JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli military to “take off the gloves” against Hamas, as Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon prepared the public for a long campaign in Gaza.
“Hamas chose to escalate the situation and it will pay a heavy price for doing so,” Netanyahu said July 8 as he entered meetings with defense officials at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv hours following the launch of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 450 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip at civilians in southern Israel, according to the IDF.
Responding to a continuing rocket barrage from Gaza on southern Israel in the past several days, including at least 80 rockets fired Monday evening, the Israel Defense Forces struck 50 Hamas targets starting at about 1 a.m. Tuesday.
The targets included concealed rocket launchers, weapons factories and the homes of top Hamas operatives, according to the IDF.
Protective Edge will expand in the coming days, including preparations for a ground invasion of Gaza, the IDF told reporters.
In addition to the 1,500 reservists called up thus far, Israel’s Cabinet on Tuesday afternoon approved the call-up of as many as 40,000 additional combat reservists.
The approval came hours after army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz requested the added troops with the start of Operation Protective Edge.
Yaalon called for patience at the start of the operation.
“We are prepared for a campaign against Hamas, which will not end within days,” he said Tuesday morning.
“Hamas is leading the current confrontation to a place in which it seeks to exact a heavy price from our home front.”
On Tuesday, the Tel Aviv municipality said it would prepare and clean public bomb shelters as Hamas threatened on its official websites that it would fire rockets at the city.
In addition, Israel Railways halted service between Sderot and Ashkelon in both directions, where a significant number of rockets have been aimed, following orders from the Home Front Command.
Israel’s Home Front Command declared a special situation in southern Israeli communities located within 25 miles of the Gaza border that allows Israeli authorities to set rules during times of military conflict in order to maintain public safety.
It also protects employees living in the area from being fired from their jobs if they miss work.
“The situation in the south has become insufferable,” Interior Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich told reporters. “We cannot allow over a million citizens be held hostage in bomb shelters.”
He added that Hamas is responsible for bringing back the calm.
Egypt reportedly continues to work to bring about a cease-fire in which Hamas agrees to halt rocket fire on southern Israel and Israel agrees to halt aerial strikes on targets in Gaza.
Summer camp and high school matriculation exams, as well as exams and studies at Ben Gurion University, have been closed amid the falling rockets.
Events with more than 300 people also have been ordered canceled in the 25-mile zone.
Public bomb shelters have been prepared in municipalities including Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheba.
PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to “stop its escalation and the raids on Gaza” in a statement published by the official Palestinian Wafa news agency.
The Palestinian Health Ministry on Tuesday afternoon reported that at least seven Palestinians were killed and 25 injured in an Israeli airstrike Tuesday on the home of a Hamas operative.
Hamas and other terror organizations in Gaza have fired more than 130 rockets into civilian areas of southern Israeli since Monday night. In response, the Israeli military has targeted about 150 of what it calls “terror sites” in Gaza.