Friday, November 13, 2009

IDF Chief: Israel will fight in Gaza again if needed

(Haaretz).Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Friday that the army would not hesitate to respond if Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip continued to fire rockets at Israel.

"We are prepared to contend with the whole arc of threats," Ashkenazi told students during a visit to a Be'er Sheva high school, citing both the local defense situation as well as Iran's contentious nuclear program.

Although the Hamas rulers in Gaza have of late been "restraining themselves and others," said Ashkenazi, "we must not fool ourselves. If necessary, we will operate again in the Gaza Strip to stop the rocket fire."

In reference to the Goldstone Commission's damning report on Israel's conduct during the war on the Gaza Strip earlier this year, Ashkenazi emphasized that the IDF had the responsibility to defend itself at all costs.

"We must defend ourselves when we see a militant cell rigging Grad rockets in the direction of Be'er Sheva, and that is exactly what we did [during the January war]," the IDF chief said.

Reiterating his remarks to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee earlier this week, Ashkenazi said that the IDF was open to investigating all complaints of misconduct during the war.

"The Goldstone report deserves a response," he added. "We must explain the justice of that war and to explain that there is the possibility that we will be forced to act again."