Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that the latest military operation against Gaza aims to reinforce deterrence and that most of the militants' long-range rockets have been destroyed.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday evening in Tel Aviv, Barak said the precise action of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) earlier in the day led to the "elimination" of Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jaabari.
"We also struck most of the long range Fajr missiles," said Barak, who took the podium after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a brief statement to the press.
Barak said the goals of the operation, "Pillar of Defense," are to inflict serious damage on the rocket launching network, deal a painful blow to Hamas, the movement that rules the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, and minimize damage to Israel's home front.
Hinting that the escalating conflict along the Gaza border could be protracted, Barak said "We are still at the beginning of the event, not at the end, and we expect some complicated tests ahead."
Both Barak and Netanyahu blamed Hamas for causing the conflicts.
"Israel does not want war. But Hamas' consistent provocation in recent weeks, in particular the incessant rounds of artillery rockets and mortars into the heart of our southern communities ... forced our hand into acting with both precision and decisiveness," Barak said, referring to recent daily rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel.
Netanyahu said "We will not tolerate a situation in which citizens of Israel are threatened with the firing of rockets. No nation would tolerate it, and Israel will not tolerate it."
Israel's massive airstrike on militants and stockpiles of long- range rockets have "significantly retarded their ability to fire missiles from Gaza at central Israel, and lessened their ability to fire at the south," he said.
When Barak and Netanyahu were speaking to reporters, the conflict was still raging, with Israeli aircraft continuing strikes on targets in Gaza and Hamas firing barrages of rockets at several cities in southern Israel. A large number of Israeli troops have reportedly been deployed along the border with Gaza for a possible ground incursion.
Many Israeli politicians, both from the right and the center- left wings, have expressed their support for Israel's new military operation against Hamas.
However, left-wing politicians objected to the operation, including members of the left-wing Meretz Party. Its chairwoman Zehava Galon told Army Radio that Netanyahu and Barak are " pyromaniacs" who embarked on the operation for the purpose of re- election. Endi