Israeli raids on Hamas targets are acts of self-defence
Avigdor Liberman demands a stop to terrorist attacks on civilians
Israel this week began a military operation in Gaza, in response to ongoing Hamas rocket fire.
The latest round of rocket fire began on June 12, the day that three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered. The Hamas shooting escalated significantly on June 30, even before the bodies of the teens were found and before the murder of a Palestinian youth, which was condemned sharply by the entire Israeli leadership, and whose murderers are already held in custody.
Over the past three weeks, the Hamas terrorist organisation has escalated its attack on Israeli civilians, launching nearly 300 rockets at our cities - including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other major metropolitan areas - putting millions of Israeli lives at risk.
Families have been forced into shelters, summer camps for children closed, and all normal daily activities have been impacted. This is unacceptable.
Israel had shown great restraint prior to this operation. Our intention was to restore the calm without a major military operation.
However, Israel's repeated efforts to achieve calm were met with increased rocket fire by what is becoming a Hamas terrorist state.
Therefore, Israel launched an operation of self-defence on Monday, to counter these attacks, to defend our citizens and secure for them a life without constant threat.
Although we are not interested in escalation, we will do whatever is necessary to defend our citizens.
Hamas is a recognised terrorist organisation, motivated by the most radical ideology, including a charter that calls for the murder of all Jews.
The group is responsible for 80 suicide bombers that have killed nearly 1,000 Israeli civilians. It has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and Egypt.
This group seeks to establish an Islamist state characterised by human rights violations, violent repression of minorities, women and non-Muslims. By deploying weapons and command centres in densely populated areas and operating from residential areas, thus turning Palestinian civilians into human shields, while deliberately targeting Israeli civilians, Hamas has been committing war crimes for over a decade.
Hamas terrorists launch rockets indiscriminately at civilians from civilian areas, and hide in civilian infrastructure including mosques, schools and hospitals. Hamas, therefore, bears full responsibility for any harm that comes to Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike.
Israel is operating with utmost care to avoid civilian casualties. We are focusing on targeting Hamas and other terrorist organisations, their operatives and infrastructure. Israel is giving repeated warnings to civilians to vacate areas it is about to target, using pinpoint technologies to hit only the targeted infrastructure.
Israel left the Gaza Strip completely in the August 2005 disengagement. Since then, there has been no Israeli presence, civilian or military, in the Gaza Strip.
It is clear that the Palestinian government must dissolve immediately its partnership with Hamas.
Furthermore, it is important that world leaders condemn the ongoing rocket fire by Hamas and other terrorist groups towards Israeli population centres, and take action to dismantle the Hamas terrorist infrastructure.
Finally, the international community should continue to demonstrate understanding for Israel to exercise its legitimate right to self-defence.
Avigdor Liberman is Israel's minister of foreign affairs