Prague - The Israeli government prefers a ceasefire, but if the Palestinian movement Hamas does not stop its rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, a massive ground operation is very probable, Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Gary Koren, told CTK today.
Izraelská bojová letadla podnikla v noci na dnešek dalších 160 náletů v Pásmu Gazy proti cílům radikálního hnutí Hamas. ČTK/AP Hatem Moussa
He said it is up to Hamas whether a massive operation on the ground will be launched. The military is ready for it, he added.
"Our immediate preference is to reach a ceasefire," Koren said.
But he said the Israeli government has to do its utmost to protect its citizens.
"They are threatening directly our civilians, they are not targetting our army, military installations," Koren said.
The situation escalated after three Israeli students from the West Bank were abducted and murdered in June and a Palestinian youth was burned to death in Jerusalem. Hamas started firing many rockets at Israeli cities every day, Israel reacted with air strikes and it drafted 40,000 reservists.
Koren said Hamas is widely recognised as a terrorist organisation and it does not plan to stop the attacks.
He said Israel is asked to restrain itself, but one cannot negotiate with an entity that openly calls for the destruction of Israel and says the Jewish state has no right to exist.
Koren said the policy of deterrence needs to be reestablished as deterrence and power seem to be the only things Hamas can understand.
Israel must hit Hamas so that they lose their appetite to continue, he said.
"Militarilly we can make it, psychologically it is a problem," Koren said.
Hamas is firing rockets from densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip to densely populated areas in Israel, Koren said.
"Few Palestinians were killed, but we are not targetting them," he said about the collateral damage.
Koren said Hamas was sending a multitude of rockets to Israel, he added.
"They are trying to overpower the Iron Dome," he said, referring to Israel´s missile defence system.
A massive production of rockets started in the Gaza Strip, Koren said.
Hamas has learnt to do more more damage and it has fired long-range rockets, which has a psychological effect, he said.
"They are sending us signals: next time we can send tens of rockets that will hit Jerusalem," Koren said.
On Tuesday, three rockets hit open areas near Jerusalem and the Iron Dome intercepted rockets in Tel Aviv.
In the past, Hamas targetted small Israeli towns which are close to Gaza because it was simple, Koren said.
Apart from reestablishing deterrence, Israel wants to make normal people in Gaza reconsider whether they are satisfied with Hamas representing them, he said.
He said Israel could have easily stopped electricity, water, fuel and other supplies to Gaza, but it has not taken the step.
Koren said he cannot imagine the renewal of peace talks that were led until April if Hamas continues to represent the Palestinians.
He said Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas´s idea of calming Hamas and bringing it to normalcy by its inclusion in a unity government has proved wrong.
Koren said he believes the current escalation would make Abbas dissolve the government and cut his ties with Hamas.