Israel is prepared for a multi-front conflict against Iran and its terrorist proxies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday after the Jewish state launched “Operation Shield and Arrow” against Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.
“It’s clear that 95% of Israel’s security problems come from Iran,” the prime minister said in a Zoom address to a conference organized by the Israel Defense and Security Forum (IDSF).
“We are dealing with an attempt by Iran to start a multi-front campaign against us. I instructed the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and security forces to be prepared for this fight. … If we need to, we will,” he added.
Netanyahu convened an expanded situational assessment session in the early evening whose participants included Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, Mossad Director David Barnea, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Ronen Bar and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.
Shortly thereafter, the Security Cabinet held a meeting at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
“Our principle is clear: Whoever harms us, we will strike at them and with great force. Our long arm will reach every terrorist at a time and place of our choosing,” Netanyahu told the ministers at the beginning of the Security Cabinet session.
“We are in the midst of a campaign. We are prepared for all possibilities. I suggest that our enemies not test us,” he said.
The Israel Air Force on Tuesday morning killed three top Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders in strikes across the Gaza Strip, following a month of intermittent confrontations with terrorists in the enclave.
The IDF identified the targets of the operation as Khalil Bahitini, PIJ’s commander in northern Gaza; Jahed Ahnam, a senior member of the terror group’s “military” council; and Tarek Azaldin, who directed its activities in Judea and Samaria.
Israel also struck 10 sites belonging to PIJ, including weapons manufacturing facilities and depots.
The military dubbed the campaign “Operation Shield and Arrow.”
Israelis residing within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the Gaza border have been instructed to enter or remain near bomb shelters amid fears of rocket attacks.
Bomb shelters were opened in the southern cities of Ashkelon and Beersheva, as well as the central area cities of Rishon Letzion, Herzliya, Ra’anana, Kfar Saba, Yavneh and Bat Yam.
Gallant hailed the killing of the three PIJ leaders and warned of a possible protracted campaign.
“The State of Israel seeks stability in the region, while the Iranian-funded [PIJ] terror group launches attacks. At the same time, it harms its own people—the Palestinian residents of Gaza,” he said.
“The State of Israel will not tolerate rocket fire, terrorism or any threats to the sovereignty of our state and security of our citizens. We must be prepared for every scenario—the IDF and security forces are prepared to defend every front,” Gallant said.
In a phone conversation with the mayors of southern Israeli communities, Gallant warned of a possible prolonged conflagration.
“The defense establishment will provide whatever assistance is required. I instructed professionals to be in continuous contact with you and take care of everything required for the needs of the residents. You have our full support,” he told the officials.