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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Liveblog: Netanyahu press conference

Prime Minister Netanyahu sends condolences to families of those killed in Gaza today.

Talks about Israel's shared sense of responsibility for each other.

We're in a war for our home. Soldiers fighting now in the field. Fighting hard with great spirit. Tells soldiers people behind them and praying for them. Tells families he's aware of their concern and we all feel that. We want to protect the soldiers and the country. We didn't choose to enter this war, but now we must finish it and significantly damage Hamas' infrastructure. We are not afraid and will continue to fight.

Last night we exposed more tunnels, some of which already reached Israel. Hamas invested years of effort in them with the goal of causing mass terror attacks and kidnappings.

The tunnel threat is not new, but this action is much broader than any previous attempt to control the tunnels. If the tunnels were not discovered, the results could have been disastrous and deadly. That was Hamas' program and that is what we are working against. We cannot promise 100% success but we are doing everything to attain the maximum and to date we are achieving more than expected.

In the days leading up to the ground attack, we built the infrastructure for international support. We agreed to cease fires which prepared the diplomatic infrastructure that has caused countries like the US, Canada, Germany [and others] to support us.

I thanked President Obama for supporting us.

Because we accepted the cease fire, no one can claim we are responsible for the violence and Hamas is responsible. We are sorry for any injury to the innocent but that's on Hamas' head.

Hamas has two strategic structures to hurt Israel - rockets and tunnels We have significantly damaged both of them.

Iron Dome has stopped the rockets, and the IAF is attacking launch sites, which they are still doing. As to the tunnels, the current operation is severely damaging Hamas' underground capabilities against us.

I want to thank the IDF, including the reservists who have left their families behind to join us. I want to thank Chief of Staff Benny Gantz who chose to be in the south now with his men and to leave me and Defense Minister Yaalon to speak to you.

In every war there are difficult events and so in this war, but this war will be expanded as much as necessary until quiet returns to Israel.

This could be a long war, but we know from our history that the eternal people does not fear a long road. We are proud of our soldiers. With God's help, we will do and we will succeed.

Now Yaalon is speaking.

Sends condolences to families. Thanks country for support.

Questions.

If they knew about the tunnels five days ago, why did they agree to cease fire at the time?

Netanyahu: This would have been the first topic we would have raised if there were a cease fire. Instead we are undertaking an operation deep inside Gaza and most of the world is supporting us. Says Abu Mazen can be part of the solution if he understands that Hamas cannot be part of it.

Yaalon: We've been busy with the tunnels for a long time - in the last year we have discovered four in our territory. This can be dealt with diplomatically or militarily - now it's being done militarily with a lot of success.

Q: Have you set a goal of getting rid of Hamas? Is the reconciliation with Turkey dead in light of what Erdogan has said? And to the Defense Minister, if there's a cease fire in a day or two, will you support it even if the tunnels aren't finished and will you insist on an international force?

Netanyahu: We are trying to turn the clock back as best we can - the fact is that you if you don't deal with it you get Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbullah. We said we'd defend ourselves against the missiles and we have. Hamas was shocked. The only thing that has changed is the fact that we are hitting them hard. They are now underground. This is a multiphase war and the problem will be resolved over time whether diplomatically, militarily or some combination.

As to Turkey, I told Kerry that Erdogan's words were anti-Semitic and that he cannot tell the difference between a terror organization that seeks to destroy us and Israel's actions to stop a terror organization. He sounds like Iran or al-Qaeda. Right now I'm busy with other things aside from him.

Yaalon: We'll cross the bridge when we come to it, but within two days most of the tunnels will be destroyed. Some things cannot be done in one day - they're a process. The Arab street is not a partner of Hamas and does not support it. There are therefore things that have to be done as a process.

Q: Who will watch over a demilitarized Gaza and what if the 'Palestinians' oppose it?

Netanyahu: Some of the demilitarization is happening de facto. We have no intention of harming civilians. But we need an international notice that the placement of missiles in Gaza against Israeli citizens is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue. The most important thing is to force this claim into the international community as we did with Iran's nuclear weapons which are now before the international community. You will hear about this subject more and more and more.

Yaalon: We gave an answer for Hamas' rockets. They tried to hit Gush Dan (Tel Aviv area) and they are frustrated that they did not succeed.

Netanyahu: Most important thing is the determination of Israel's citizens. You are all of our strength.

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