Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel continues to maintain thousands of forces around the border with Gaza during the 72-hour ceasefire. (Gali Tibbon / AFP)
TEL AVIV — Declaring its anti-tunnel mission accomplished, Israel agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire, yet continues to maintain thousands of forces around the border with Gaza for rapid response in case rocket attacks resume.
At 8 in the morning of Aug. 5, Israel agreed to halt all targeting operations in its ongoing Protective Edge operation, now in its 29th day.
In parallel to implementation of the 72-hour respite, however, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it is is “maintaining defensive positions around the Gaza Strip and will respond to attacks if they arise.”
In an August 5 statement, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Israeli military and Shin Bet security service for “neutralizing the terrorist tunnels” in the Gaza Strip.
“This was a complicated operation carried out by heroic soldiers under difficult combat conditions,” Netanyahu said.
He commended Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Sammy Turgemann, southern theater commander and “all of whom had the fighting spirit that led to very impressive results.”
Netanyahu said the anti-tunnel operation severely damaged a strategic network that Hamas had invested greatly in over many years.
“These tunnels would have enabled Hamas to kidnap and murder civilians and IDF soldiers by launching simultaneous attacks from the many tunnels that penetrate our territory.”
However, he warned “there is no guarantee of 100 percent success.”