Israel is prepared to continue fighting Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza Strip after the army completes its primary mission of destroying cross-border tunnels from the territory, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.
"We won't accept the continuation of rocket fire and we have different options that we will use to restore the calm, however long it takes," he said. "I prefer achieving the goal using the diplomatic option, but if there's no choice, we'll use all of the means at our disposal."
"After completing the anti-tunnel operation, the IDF will act and continue to act, in accordance with our security needs and only according to our defence needs, until we achieve our objective of restoring security to you, Israel's citizens," he said during a press conference with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, stressing all options were on the table.
Netanyahu threatened to exact an "intolerable price" from the Gaza Strip's dominant Hamas Islamists should there be continued attacks from the Palestinian territory.
"We do not accept a continuation of the shooting," Netanyahu told reporters. "It (Hamas) will have to understand, however long that takes, that it will pay an intolerable price, from its perspective, for continuation of the shooting."
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP that the Islamic group will continue fighting "until our goals are achieved. Netanyahu wants to falsely claim a victory of his government and his army."
After the family of captive soldier Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin said earlier they have yet to speak to Netanyahu, the prime minister promised to speak to them later on this evening.
"The family's words have touched me," he said. "The state of Israel will continue making every effort to return its missing sons home."
The prime minister stressed that he would not let the kidnapping of Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin become a main consideration in the decision of if and when to finish the operation.
"I won't say when we'll finish and where we'll go. We are not committed to estimates, we're only committed to our security interests," he said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon also spoke of Goldin. "I want to extend my support to the Goldin family. I also want to extend my support to the family of Golani soldiers Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose place of burial is unknown at this time."
Netanyahu said the decision was made to "minimize the IDF soldiers' friction (with Hamas). I can about each and every soldier, but we will continue our operation until we achieve our goals."
Israel was also working on developing a technological solution to the terror tunnels threat, the prime minister said.
"We'll invest our resources and our inginuity (in it)," he said.
Netanyahu also spoke of the importance of the support of the international community. "The US and European strong support of the need to disarm the terror organizations is an important accomplishment for the state of Israel. Just as important, and what has surprised many, is the unique connection that was created with the states in the regional. That too is an important asset to the state of Israel, and when the Gaza campaign is over, this would open new possibilities to us."
The prime minister also addressed reports of a conversation he had with US ambassador Dan Shapiro in which he apparently said, "Never second guess me again." According to Netanyahu, the reports were "full of inaccuracies."