'Hamas, not Israel is responsible for civilian deaths' - IDF spokesperson
RT: You claim you are carrying out limited action, but civilians – including children – are being killed in Gaza. How do you justify this?
Avital Leibovich: Several hundred rockets a year launched from Gaza into Israel do not demand justification. We have one million Israelis that are in immediate danger, and they have between 15 and 50 seconds of warning. This more than justifies this operation. We took this operation in order to defend the people of Israel.
RT: Can you confirm that you will continue this operation with a ground invasion?
AL: Ground assault is an option. We're currently in operational assessment, and following the assessment we will decide how to proceed. For us all the options are on the table.
RT: What would you hope to achieve with an invasion? Isn’t there a danger it will further provoke Hamas?
AL: Since Hamas embarked on firing rockets into Israel, don’t you think it’s a bit late for that? We are undertaking the Pillar of Defense operation in order to protect the three million Israelis that are threatened by this rocket fire. We are currently continuing the operation; a few hours ago we targeted underground tunnels and launching pads. In these launch areas there were rockets of different types, some came from Iran. We cannot allow this situation to continue – our country has the right to defend its people.
RT: You carried out a ground operation four years ago, and many say it achieved absolutely nothing except the deaths of many civilians. What will be different this time?
AL: The operation was very successful in 2008. We went from one hundred rockets a week to nearly two on average a month, so of course it was very effective. We are not promising to totally stop the rockets, but we are looking at crippling the capabilities of this terror organization headed by Hamas. Hamas is responsible for any rocket fire that leaves Gaza into Israel.
RT: Are the Israeli people ready for troop losses (in case of ground invasion)?
AL: I believe the military has the full support of the Israeli people, because they understand that the next rocket from Gaza could reach their homes.
I believe there have been casualties on the both sides in the past decades. We have no intention of targeting people not directly involved in terror. But Hamas is a terror organization that chose deliberately to locate its rocket stores right in the middle of population centers. Hamas is responsible for any civilian deaths. The Gazans chose Hamas, Hamas chose terror, terror is rocket fire, we will not simply submit to this kind of situation. We only target terrorists.