This is the fourth day of Operation Protective Edge. The IDF, the ISA and the security forces are fighting Hamas with increasing intensity. As of now, we have hit over 1,000 Hamas', Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations' targets, and we are still busy.
The pace of attacks in this operation is double that of Operation Pillar of Defense and the military strikes will continue until we can be certain that the quiet has returned to Israeli citizens. I would like to make it clear that no terrorist target in the Gaza Strip is immune but it must be pointed out that Hamas's leaders, commanders and activists are hiding behind the residents of Gaza and they are responsible for any injury to them.
The difference between us is simple. We develop defensive systems against missiles in order to protect our civilians and they use their civilians to protect their missiles. And this is the entire difference: They fire indiscriminately at our civilians and our cities in order to attack them. Sometimes they hit soldiers by mistake.
We strike at their armed forces and sometimes we hit civilians by mistake. I made this point – and many others – clear in recent days in the conversations I have held with major world leaders. I had a good conversation last night with US President Barack Obama, also with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I had good talks with all of them, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Prime Minister David Cameron, and of course with French President Francois Hollande. To all of them I said something simple – no country would accept its civilians being fired at without a harsh response. I said that I would not allow Israel's citizens to live in this reality. No international pressure will prevent us from operating with full force against a terrorist organization that calls for our destruction.
We will continue to strongly hit all those who try to attack us and we will continue to take determined and prudent action to protect our home front, the citizens of the State of Israel. Iron Dome is a great asset to our national security and I think that it is additional proof of the technological superiority of the State of Israel. This is one of the more impressive developments in defensive war materiel in recent decades. In recent years, my governments – this is my second government – have invested billions in home front defense; Iron Dome was a considerable portion of this sum, and we are working to cover the entire country with systems that can intercept missiles from any distance.
I want to explain what here is the problem. The problem here is that the other countries that collapse, collapse. We don't collapse because we have a strong nation, government, army, country. But we stand against the militant Islam of Hamas, and we evacuated Gaza after the disengagement...well, this is the product. We live at the moment alongside the result of this, and the implication of this is A) that we have to deal with Hamas. I am not distinguishing at the moment, we are exploring all options, all the paths, and possibilities, which we may choose. This is not a simple problem. We have to deal with it.
Parallel to the dealing with Hamas, I also worry that we will receive Gaza with bad results. I think now the citizens of Israel understand what I say all the time, that there cannot be an agreement of any kind where we give up the responsibility of security along the Jordan valley, and maybe today they understand what I said to John Kerry and General Allen, 'We live here, I live here, I know what we need to do to guarantee Israeli citizens' security, this wasn't done in the case of Gaza, not on my hand, I was against it, and we are dealing with it now, and I will deal with it. But I don't want to have another problem, another 20 Gazas as this is the size of Judea and Samaria together relative to Gaza. I will not let this happen.
We need to deal with this problem, and we will, and there is a problem there also with rockets, not only long-range rockets, there are also problems with tunnels. Those who said the area is insignificant, look at the importance of the area. The area is dense, they tunnel underground into and from the area...today I don't want to share the number of tunnels, though we do have an estimate that is fairly accurate, we are trying to find them and it's very difficult, but along Judea and Samaria, if we give in like they're telling us to, and we just get out, we're talking here about a possibility of thousands of tunnels. There were over 1,200 tunnels in the 14km border between Egypt and Gaza. There were, and there are some still there, which are closed now. Why do you think they closed them? Because the Egyptians are on the other side of the border and they see the wild entrances. And therefore the question of the tunnels demonstrates the simple problem, that the area has dangers, from the possibility of tunneling, no less than that also from the ability to smuggle in thousands of rockets, if not tens of thousands of rockets, with ranges of 50-80 km.
The power of the rockets is higher as the range gets shorter, and the number goes down as the range gets bigger. And for us all therefore we have a problem. Others say that the problem of the rockets is not real beyond the close areas, but the close area, especially in the Middle East where militant Islam is on the rise that is taking every area it can, we have to think that the area is all important. At the moment we have a problem in the area called Gaza, and we will deal with it. I cannot get into all the details, all the judgments, we are doing it, I think we are doing it responsibly, but I can say only one thing: part of the treatment, an important part, is found in how you respond, the citizens of Israel, how you act, and also from one other thing, another important thing: by the impressive and genuine unity that originates from one thing, from the terrifying rockets. We need to stand together.
And perhaps the most important defense in the end, with certainty, is your strength, citizens of Israel. The strength that you have been showing helps us in conducting this operation in a responsible and sagacious manner. I ask only one thing of you – continue to listen to the instructions of IDF Home Front Command, they both save lives and prevent Hamas from realizing the goals that it has set. We will continue to do whatever we need to guard over you but I also ask you to do what is necessary in order to guard your lives and those of your children. I am proud of the way in which you have been conducting yourselves and I am proud of your support. I am proud to be your Prime Minister.