An Israeli minister from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said Israel would start “preemptively” attacking targets in Gaza before Hamas or other groups launch rockets towards Israeli territory.
“We cannot wait for rocket fire [to respond in Gaza],” said Tzachi Hanegbi in an interview with Israel’s Channel 13. He said if Hamas is rearming or preparing rockets that it would be “cause for Israeli strikes” in Gaza. “This is a total change of the equation. We’ve never done this,” he said.
Hanegbi’s comments come after Israel’s 11-day bombing campaign in Gaza, which concluded on Friday after a ceasefire was reached. The Israeli bombardment killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children. In Israel, 12 people were killed by rockets launched from Gaza, including two children.
The Israelis destroyed critical civilian infrastructure in Gaza and many residential buildings, claiming Hamas had offices or operated out of the targeted structures. But Israel rarely offers evidence that Hamas was operating out of buildings it targets.
The owner of a building that was destroyed by Israel last week that housed offices for media outlets, including The Associated Press, said he never saw evidence that there was a Hamas presence in the tower.
But the Israeli claims about Hamas are enough to excuse bombing civilian homes and killing children for Israel’s biggest backer, the United States. After the ceasefire was reached, President Biden promised to “replenish” the Iron Dome, one of Israel’s missile-defense systems, and said there’s been “no shift” in his commitment to Israel.
Considering how liberally Israel uses claims about Hamas to justify airstrikes, bombings under the guise of preventing a Hamas attack means the entire Gaza Strip is a potential target, whether or not rockets are being fired.
Hanegbi also said that he believes Israel did enough damage in the latest bombing campaign that it does not have to worry about attacks from Gaza for up to 15 years. “I’m very optimistic. I don’t know if it’ll be 15 years, maybe more,” he said.