A statement from the Israel Defense Forces said that this second stage of the operation was intended to “bring about an improved and more stable security situation for residents of Southern Israel over the long term.”
The statement added that “large numbers of forces are taking part in this stage of the operation including infantry, tanks, engineering forces, artillery and intelligence with the support of the Israel Air Force, Israel navy, Israel Security Agency and other security agencies.”
Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, said in a statement broadcast on television: “This will not be short. This will not be easy. I do not wish to delude anyone,” adding that the coming days will be difficult for the residents of the south of Israel.
“Our aim is to force Hamas to stop its hostile activity and to bring about a significant change,” Mr. Barak said. “We have carefully weighed our options,” he said, adding that “we have restrained ourselves for a long time but now we have to do what must be done” for peace and tranquillity.