Attack on Gaza, Jenin ‘may be inevitable’: Israeli army chief
Kochavi says Israeli army would not be silent about any rocket fire from Gaza
Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi has not ruled out launching a military operation in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank city of Jenin.
"The plans are ready. If the situation escalates, we will launch an operation whenever we need to,” Kochavi said in an interview with Israeli Channel 12 on Wednesday.
"If the number of attacks emanating from the city of Jenin in general, or the refugee camp in particular increases, it may be inevitable to launch an attack on the terrorist cells in these areas," he said.
“This also applies to other places in Judea and Samaria," he said, using the Jewish term for the occupied West Bank.
Six Palestinian prisoners had tunneled out of the high-security Gilboa prison in northern Israel on Sept. 6. Israeli forces, however, managed to capture four of them after a manhunt. The remaining two are still in hiding.
The six prisoners are from Jenin in the northern West Bank.
"The interrogation with Zakaria Zubeidi shows that the prisoners planned to go to Jenin and it is possible that at least one of them has already arrived there receiving help and hiding there," Kochavi said.
In this regard, the Israeli army chief referred to "the possibility of launching a large-scale military operation in Jenin."
"We will eventually get our hands on the escapees, even if it takes several months," he said.
As for the Gaza Strip, Kochavi warned that the Israeli army would not be silent about any rocket fire from the Palestinian territory.
"We will attack forcefully whenever there is a violation of sovereignty or harm to citizens,” he said.
"In Gaza, there is a need for two measures; humanitarian and economic assistance must be provided with one hand but this cannot be bypassed until the issue of captives and missing persons is resolved," Kochavi said, in reference to four Israelis held by Palestinian group Hamas.
"The message to the organization that controls the Gaza Strip [Hamas] must be clear, strong and firm: We will use as much force as possible to prove to Hamas that there is no point in attacking us," he said.
Kochavi rejected some Israeli assessments that Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, "has lost touch with reality."
"I don't accept the assessment that Sinwar loses touch with reality; he is rational but also emotional; he is trying to promote interests such as improving the economy in the Gaza Strip and is still thriving, and with time he gains confidence, but it costs him mistakes," Kochavi said.
*Bassel Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara