Israeli officials give updates on fighting with Gaza

Israeli officials gave an update Saturday on the conflict with Gaza after an Israeli airstrike destroyed a building housing offices of the AP and other media outlets.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

- We want to go live to a press briefing from officials in Israel. They're discussing the latest escalating fighting with Hamas militants.

LIOR HAIAT: [INAUDIBLE] is the international spokesperson for the Israeli police. And I will start before we'll give the floor to Jonathan with a brief message in English and in Spanish, because I understand there are a few Latin American journalists with us as well. So the main issue is that Israel is under a terror attack. Over the last few days, there were over 2,000 missiles that were launched from the Gaza Strip on the Israeli-- on Israeli civilians.

Israel, like any other country in the world, has the right and the obligation to defend its citizens. During the last five days, there were 10 Israelis killed. The last one was killed today. In the city of Ramat Gan, his house was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip.

Israel has done anything possible and everything possible in order to avoid conflict and tension. That goes to the decision of the Supreme Court to delay the court hearings regarding the issue of [INAUDIBLE]. It goes also to the decision by the chief of police not to allow Jews to enter the Temple Mount on Jerusalem day and also to change the route of the flag-- the parade that was planned for that-- for Jerusalem day, and ultimately to cancel it.

Every one of those steps were answered with more violence and more terrorism. Every one of those missiles that are being launched from the Gaza Strip to Israel is actually a terror attack. But not only that, every one of those missiles is also a war crime. Every one of those missiles is a war crime, a double war crime. First of all, launching a terror attack on civilians, and secondly, launching it from the civilian centers in the Gaza Strip.

Please turn the-- mute your computers, please. We expect the international community to condemn the terror organization Hamas terror attacks and to recognize publicly the right of Israel to defend its citizens. Now, if you allow me, I'll do it in Spanish as well.

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Thank you very much. And we'll now give the floor to Jonathan Conricus. Jonathan, the floor is yours.

JONATHAN CONRICUS: Thank you, Lior. Good evening to everybody from Tel Aviv. My name is Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus. I am the international spokesperson of the IDF. I'll give a brief statement about the current situation, facts, figures, and numbers, and a few words about our current and future operations.

Then we have some time for questions. Lior, I apologize for not being able to participate in the entire briefing, but we will have roughly 10 minutes for questions afterwards.

So the situation is as follows. Operation Guardian of the Walls, as we call it, started on Monday after 6:00 PM when Hamas decided to fire a volley of rockets towards Jerusalem, towards our capital, and then that volley of rockets has been followed by additional rockets towards Israel with the latest barrage of rockets fired only a few hours ago towards central Israel as, of course, the South, but specifically towards central Israel, leading to yet another Israeli casualty, civilian casualty number 10. This time a 58-year-old man who was inside his house and was killed almost immediately by shrapnel from one of the rockets.

In terms of rockets, 2,800. Those are the latest figures. 2,800 rockets have been fired towards Israel. Out of those 2,800, 430 out of those rockets that were fired towards Israel, 440 of those rockets fell short inside the Gaza Strip and caused damage and casualties inside the Gaza Strip. I do not have a specific estimate on how many people have been killed or wounded inside Gaza by Hamas' rockets, but I can tell you that it is more than 20.

And that is a fact that is deeply under-reported in international media, the amount of rockets that Hamas fires that fall short inside Gaza and threaten the lives of Palestinians. Hamas so far is getting away with blaming those deaths on Israel. I think that is something that needs to be corrected. The Iron Dome is the biggest influencing military system that we have. It saves lives every second, every day. The interception rate is above 90% of the rockets that we try to intercept.

Naturally, we don't try to intercept every rocket. If a rocket is destined to land in the sea or in urban terrain, we don't waste an interceptor missile. But if it is on its way to populated areas, we will intercept it, and we are very happy with the fact that it has intercepted over 90% of the rockets, despite the fact that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are trying to overwhelm the system, they are trying to challenge it, and are constantly trying new ways to find weaknesses. So far, the system has been holding on extremely well. And we are thankful for that system.

In terms of our activities, and the IDF's activities, we have struck more than 672 military targets. And we strike only military targets. And I'm sure that you will have questions about how we strike, what we strike, et cetera, and I will answer those. But in terms of targets, we have struck 672.

And those targets include and are not limited to rocket manufacturing facilities, rocket storage facilities, rocket launchers that are embedded within the civilian population and civilian facilities, underground tunnel complexes, specifically in Shuja'iyya and in Beit Hanoun, two parts of the northeastern part of the Gaza Strip as well as houses that belong to terror operatives that they use for military purposes, and perhaps most importantly combatants, enemy combatants that are fighting against us, terrorists that are trying to either fire rockets, fire missiles, or otherwise operate against us.

We have been able to so far kill more than 75 enemy combatants. That is the latest estimate, and it is the most conservative estimate. To that I would add additional numbers, but so far that is our conservative estimate. I'll tell you an unknown secret, you will not find these names, and you will not find these numbers when you go to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health website and looking for casualties. In the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health website, you will find the numbers, figures, names, ages that are convenient for Hamas for you to find.

You will find the women, the children, and the uninvolved combatants. For some odd reason, you will not find the military age men that have died fighting against us. And the amount of people that are deceived by Hamas' information is, to my mind, simply staggering.

In terms of casualties, as I said, in Israel, we have, unfortunately, already 10 Israeli civilian casualties. Eight of them direct result of rockets that were fired. Two, unfortunately, people who fell, or otherwise fell on their way to seeking shelter, and died from that. And we have one military casualty, an Israeli staff sergeant who was killed by a direct hit of a anti-tank missile towards his vehicle.

The IDF is-- our mission is to defend the state of Israel and our civilians. We are committed to this mission and we will continue to execute it by all means at our disposal by attacking terrorists, their infrastructure, the terrorists themselves, and all of these support structure that support Hamas and Islamic Jihad operations, including military targets that are used by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad within civilian facilities. We will continue to execute our assignments while trying to minimize collateral damage, while trying to minimize the effect on non-combatant civilians.

And we are using the best capabilities at our disposal in terms of intelligence, precision weapons. We are committed to international law of armed conflict. And we aspire to minimize collateral damage. However, it is clear and anybody who has been to Garza knows that it is almost impossible to surgically differentiate between terrorists and their infrastructure and civilians, which are used by the terrorists as their human shields in every aspect.

Whether it is that Hamas built tunnels and their command infrastructure underneath the neighborhoods, or they use their courtyards and houses for rocket launchers, or they use civilian-- so-called civilian buildings for their offices, headquarters, R&D centers, et cetera, et cetera, all of that is happening. It is very challenging for us to strike only military targets, but I can tell you that we are doing our maximum effort to strike only military targets. And I will answer questions to that effect.

Last thing, where is this going? This is going-- how this is going depends, first and foremost, just like how it began. It began with Hamas firing rockets at Israel. And it may come to an end by Hamas stopping the fire towards Israel. That is definitely the most basic of preconditions.

And after that happens, then there might be room for talks, but as the situation stands today, after more than 300 rockets were fired today towards Israel, we are committed to continue operations to continue to degrade enemy capabilities, and most importantly, to defend our civilians. Lior, do you want to manage the Q&A?

LIOR HAIAT: Yes, I would. Thank you, Jonathan. And Rageh, I know you have to leave soon, so you can go first.

RAGEH OMAAR: Thank you very much indeed, Lior. And thank you very much Lieutenant Colonel Conricus. I'd like to ask by asking, first of all, a military question of you, Jonathan. I don't know, Lior, if you are moderating, or if you can answer something on the diplomatic front. But let me ask Jonathan first.

Just stepping back for a minute, Jonathan, it seems incredible that within the last few days that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been able to fire 3,000 rockets. I think it's the same number has been fired over the last six or seven years in totality. So my question is, how is it that's under Israel's very watchful and strict security apparatus that they have been able to amass this amount of rockets and being able to fire it in such concentrated levels? And also I'd like to ask about the-- a bit more detail about the performance of sort of Iron Dome, and also your ability to be able to trace the launchers.

On a diplomatic front, Lior, I don't know if you can answer this. But in some senses, there were due to be elections in the Palestinian sort of areas. Those were canceled. Is there a new strategic reality in terms of diplomatically for the Israeli government that this is really a devastating blow to Fatah and the non-Gaza Palestinian Authorities? Thank you.

JONATHAN CONRICUS: Right. Thank you. Regarding the first part about the rockets, it's a matter of priorities. Hamas and Islamic Jihad's priorities, but mostly Hamas' priorities, over the years have been, and they still continue to be, to build, to manufacture rockets, to dig tunnels, and to develop new types of weaponry in order to fight against Israel. Their priorities are not civilian infrastructure. Their priorities are not the development of the Gaza Strip, or the well-being of Gaza and civilians.

Their priority is to use international aid, own revenue, Iranian money, and other types of funding that they have in order to procure weapons and in order to manufacture weapons. And since that is the case, since that is the focus of the organization, then they unfortunately have been successful. When you set your mind to something, you succeed. That's the same thing with Hamas. They are industrious. They are focused. And they have been producing rockets by the hundreds, even more so over the last period of-- the last years.

They do so with Iranian guidance, knowledge and know-how. Specialists from the Iranian weapons industry, which is a decent weapons industry with, unfortunately, a lot of experience and significant output. That is how they manufacture them. And now they have a domestic industry that produces the vast majority of rockets that they have. This is how they've been able to amass such an amount of rockets.

Another thing, but contrary to the fact that they've been able to amass lots of rockets, they are, however, of questionable quality. And again, the issue here of 430 rockets falling short and instead of killing Israeli civilians are killing Gazans, so far Hamas is getting away-- getting away with murder, getting away with murders of Palestinians. And it's not being reported and there's no pressure on them, at least not in international media, and I have seen very little written about it in Arabic, but you asked about rockets and quality, then that's one.

Second thing about the Iron Dome, in terms of details, I think it was quite elaborate, but I mean, we have our interceptors. We are deployed along the country. We've called up from reserves another Iron Dome battery. And we may do more because we see that there is an amazing demand for-- [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] an amazing demand for a need-- a military need for those interceptors. But so far, I must say, that is what's saving the day.

We would all be in a totally different situation had it not been for the success, the amazing success of the Iron Dome. Not only in intercepting rockets, but also for the first time ever in the world in intercepting UAVs. And Hamas has tried to send-- dispatch three explosive UAVs, Kamikaze UAVs, and we have been successful in intercepting all of them with the Iron Dome. And that's the first in the world that a UAV is taken down by a missile defense system.

LIOR HAIAT: OK, thank you, Jonathan. Rageh, since Jonathan is very short on time, I'll try to answer your question quickly. You talked about the elections that were postponed. We were worried before the elections that Hamas will take over Judea and Samaria, or the Palestinian Authority. And that is exactly what Hamas is trying to do today.

Hamas-- this is the first conflict that we have with the Gaza Strip that has nothing to do with the Gaza Strip. It has nothing to do with getting people out or in the Gaza Strip, or materials and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip. Hamas is trying to take over the Palestinian Authority. It's an internal political issue between Hamas and the Fatah.

And unfortunately, they're using Israel in order to gain power in the Palestinian-- internal Palestinian political frame. And I would just want to put on the table that if Hamas does take control of the Palestinian Authority, how devastating it would be to the entire region. It will-- obviously, it will block any way of future negotiations or solution between Israel and the Palestinians. It puts in risk the stability of other countries in the region.

And also, it puts in risk the way that the international community can communicate with the Palestinians, taking into account that Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization by the US and the EU and many other countries around the world. So if Hamas does take over the Palestinian Authority, it won't be just a problem for Israel, it's a problem for the region and for-- a problem for the international community. And we'll move to Andrea. I talk to you-- I think you are the first one who wanted to ask the question. We can't hear you, Andrea.

- Can you hear me now?

LIOR HAIAT: Now we can.

- Yes, thank you very much. Thank you for doing this briefing. And with full recognition of the suffering on both sides and of your efforts to communicate what this has meant, could I ask a question of the Lieutenant Colonel about the efforts to minimize civilian casualties and civilian targets? Because Jen Psaki from the White House has tweeted that they have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.

And we understand that the media building that houses Al Jazeera, the Associated Press and many other international media organizations has been bombed. And that is of great concern to journalists worldwide. So could you respond to that? I realize that there was a statement that Hamas was using that building as human shields, but that is really not a full explanation to all of our colleagues who have lost all of their archives and records.

JONATHAN CONRICUS: I will explain, Andrea.

- Thank you very much.

JONATHAN CONRICUS: Thank you. Of course, loud and clear, the message from the US, that is how we are operating. It is a message that it corresponds with what we believe in as well and, of course, accepted and is translated into action. It has been translated even before it was said, and will continue to be translated into action as we speak.

Regarding the Al-Jala tower. It's not a media tower, and it's not a media center. It is a tower that was used by Hamas for three main purposes. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but mostly Hamas, Islamic Jihad have an office there as well and they use it for their purposes, but the main culprit here is Hamas.

Three topics. One, the offices of their military intelligence, basically collection and analysis of military intelligence, obviously used for military purposes against us. Second, research and development, where the best subject matter experts were operating from inside that building using the hardware computers and other facilities inside the building to develop weapons, military weapons against Israel. And third thing, a highly advanced technological tools that are in, or on, the building. And I can't be more specific, but in or on the building that Hamas has used in fighting against us in order to hamper or limit the activity of the IDF inside Israel and of civilian-- of civilian activity along the Gaza envelope.

Those are the three reasons why the IDF decided to strike that tower. And out of consideration for the safety of civilians, noncombatants, of course, journalists, then due-- enough time was given for these people to evacuate the building knowing that that time was also used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to salvage a lot of their important equipment. But that is a military loss that we are willing to, quote, unquote, "suffer" in order to minimize and to make sure that there are no civilian casualties in the strike on the building. And that is why we struck it.

I can assure you, yes, we are committed both to journalists, their safety, and to their free work and to civilians, but you must understand that it is not-- I'm sure you've been to Gaza and you know how it looks, it is an extremely difficult battle space where Hamas, by their strategy, by design do everything in order to embed their own military infrastructure within the civilian infrastructure. Everything is mixed. There is no one clear military targets.

We have rocket launchers inside cults and practically by-- next to houses. We have tunnels underneath all of Gaza that serves the militants, the terrorists. Whenever fighting begins, they hide downstairs in the tunnels. They let the civilians stay on top and deal with the consequences. And they hide in safety inside the tunnels. Not for so long, because we've found ways to attack those as well.

But it is an extremely difficult situation to distinguish, but we will continue to do the most that we can in order to minimize civilian casualties. We are aware of the international focus on it, but most importantly, we don't want to kill civilians. We have no business killing civilians. We have a business and a commitment in killing terrorists. Nothing more.

LIOR HAIAT: Thank you, Jonathan. And now we'll move to Zeke Miller.

- Thank you, just a follow up on Andrea's question there and your explanation. What proof can you offer to the international community of Hamas' alleged activities in that building? You mentioned offices-- do you have photographs? Do you have records? You mentioned this technology, what was it-- do you have evidence that you can offer to the international community why that was a legitimate military target in your plan?

JONATHAN CONRICUS: So according to our intelligence, and I can assure you that our intelligence is very accurate, that is what Hamas and the Islamic Jihad was using the building for. For reasons of source security and not compromising our collection efforts, currently-- and I'm not saying that that's the final answer that the idea for the state of Israel will give, but currently that is the level of detail that I've been authorized to share and to give the three topics that the three groups of what Hamas and the Islamic Jihad used to building for and why it was-- it qualified as a military target.

I, too, believe me, my work would be much easier if I could have that information readily available now and show it to the world. And I can assure you that that is what I want to do. I understand that you and your colleagues, and I think it's a legitimate request to see more information, and I will try to provide it.

LIOR HAIAT: OK. Jonathan.

- Apologies. It's already been answered.

LIOR HAIAT: OK. Thank you. So I'll lower the hand, and we'll move to Nicholas.

- Good evening from Cyprus. Thank you for this. I have two questions for you. Firstly, you mentioned the role of Iran in all of this in supporting Hamas. A lot has been said for the role of Turkey as well in all of this. And I was wondering if you can give us some details maybe regarding this role. You mentioned also how the stability in the whole region is in danger with what's happening in Gaza.

My country is very near to you. And I was wondering if you have any communication with the Cypriot authorities. Thank you.

JONATHAN CONRICUS: So it's good to be an Island, my dear neighbor. And it's good to have a sea around you and not what we have around us, but that's a different story. And there's something related to history. The role of Iran here is an important one. They are not the ones calling the shots and organizing the actual fighting.

They are not the ones controlling Hamas, and not even the Islamic Jihad, but they are the biggest provider of weapons, both to the Islamic Jihad, first and foremost, and secondly to Hamas. Both in terms of ready to use weapons, standard grade weapons that are smuggled in directly to the organizations, second in funds, money, and third in, as I said, knowledge. And the role of Turkey, I think is a bit more complex.

Turkey definitely has influence over the region and has strong ties with Hamas. We've read media reports about the Hamas activity in Turkey, which we find very concerning. Activity that allows the-- allows Hamas to generate revenue and to operate, and that is definitely of concern. And it's been mentioned in the international media quite a few times.

And one would hope, and maybe Lior will talk about that afterwards, that the Turkey could play a positive mediating role since they have influence over Hamas and since they are a big and important country in the region, maybe they could have a positive influence. But I will leave that to Lior because it's more of a political and international question.

LIOR HAIAT: Thank you, Jonathan. And I would just say that we are in contact with the authorities, not only in Cyprus, but around the world with every country. And referring to [INAUDIBLE] and also to Turkey, as I said, we expect the international community, first of all, to condemn the terror attacks from the Gaza Strip on the Israeli society. And secondly, we expect the international community to recognize clearly and loudly the right of Israel to defend its citizens. And this is what we are doing.

Without getting specifically into the issue of Turkey, I think that the international community has a responsibility not to create a bigger conflict than it is and not to incite to more violence and to find ways to calm the situation down. And this is what we expect from the International community.

And before we move to the next question from Romeo, the question in Spanish from the chat that I will ask Jonathan to answer, do you think that the rockets that are fired from the terrorists of Hamas are the same ones, or the same level as the rockets from 2014 or in past conflicts?

JONATHAN CONRICUS: So we, of course, are doing an extensive analysis. The specialists in Israel, EOD, and engineers are looking at the rockets, looking at their flight path, looking at their size, their warhead, the caliber, the distance, the amount of shrapnel, their lethality, et cetera, et cetera. And we're, of course, learning as we go. One thing I'd like to point out is that we are seeing very large warheads, and we are seeing extended ranges.

Those are two key components that are important to note, range and size of warheads, that both of them have gotten bigger. I don't have the final results of a professional military analysis of it, but general trends, these are, too. However, another thing, and we spoke about it, quality. The amount of rockets that are falling short is abnormal.

It is much more than what they usually have. And that is also something that I'm sure that Hamas would be very interested in investigating, and we are also looking into it to see what they are doing wrong. That's regarding the rockets.

LIOR HAIAT: Thank you, Jonathan. And we'll move to the next question. And Romeo.

- Hello.

LIOR HAIAT: Sorry, Romeo, I muted you. Please unmute yourself again. OK, thank you.

- Is it working now?

LIOR HAIAT: It is. We can hear you.

- OK, perfect. Thank you so much for this presentation. I just wanted to clarify some numbers that were mentioned. So you had mentioned 75 estimated combatant deaths that are not identified at least, yeah. That are not identified in the website of the Ministry of Health of Hamas.

I think currently they are reporting a total of 140 deaths in Gaza. So are these 75 part of this 140, but not identified, or are they additional to this 140 that they are reporting to internationally?

JONATHAN CONRICUS: Yeah, they are part of. And as I said, it is a very conservative estimate. It is not-- we think that the number is bigger. But these are operatives, enemy combatants, terrorists that we have a very high level of confidence about them being killed. That doesn't include Islamic Jihad. We should add a few dozen, two or three dozen for Islamic Jihad. Those are the numbers.

But again, you know, some of you are seasoned war correspondents. We all know that there is fog of war and many things are happening simultaneously. We, unfortunately, don't have the ability to immediately know exactly how many enemy combatants. We are collecting intelligence from various sources and compiling it together. That is our estimate.

And, again, it's an extremely important figure. The amount of combatants killed versus the amount of noncombatants killed, and we strive to keep the number of noncombatants low. We do not want civilians killed. We do not seek their harm. We are trying our best to operate only against the military, only against terrorist infrastructure.

LIOR HAIAT: Thank you. And then a question comes from Leandro [INAUDIBLE].

- Hi, good evening. First of all, thanks. An Argentine media said that Khaled Mashal, Hamas political leader, called for a cease fire. Is that true? Do you have the same information? And the second for Lior Haiat, what is your opinion on the statement issued by the Argentine Foreign Ministry?

JONATHAN CONRICUS: So the first question, more military, not aware of any such thing. And since these massive barrages of rockets were fired at all civilians just today in Central Israel, that is not on the table. We are fighting against Hamas. They are firing rockets at our civilians. We hold them accountable for this bloodshed and the violence, the things that are inflicted upon Israeli civilians and, also, what is happening in the Gaza Strip.

So that is not on the table. And our instructions from our-- the security cabinet and the chief of staff, carry on operations, enhance operations, degrade enemy capabilities, current capabilities and future capabilities.

LIOR HAIAT: Thank you, Leandro. To answer your question, I would say one thing regarding the ceasefire is the [INAUDIBLE] not an issue now. A ceasefire now will just help Hamas to recover and we'll end up with the same situation that we were in the day before the operation, or the day before this conflict began, which means that Hamas will have the opportunity to start the conflict, the military conflict, whenever they want, and they have-- they will have the opportunity to launch missiles on Israeli citizens and the terror attacks on Israeli citizens whenever they choose.

So our goal in this operation is, first of all, to stop those rocket launching on Israeli citizens and then to also target the infrastructure of Hamas so we won't go to the same situation the day after. And I can cite what the prime Minister Netanyahu said, the operation is ongoing, and we will stop only when we reach our goals.

Regarding the declaration, as I'm not aware of all the statements done by all the countries in the world, there were many. And I'm not-- I don't specifically remember what the American [INAUDIBLE] Government said. I would say that we expect every government, every state in the world to recognize the responsibility of Hamas and to condemn their terror attack, loud and clear. And the second part is recognizing Israel's right to self-defense. This is as clear as possible.

This is not the time to balance this statement. This is not a conflict that started by two sides. It's a conflict that was initiated by a terror organization against a democratic country, and democratic countries. And any country has a right to defend its citizens. And I will move to the next question from Lucian. Lucian, we can't hear you.

[EXPLOSIONS]

No, can you hear him, Jonathan?

JONATHAN CONRICUS: No.

LIOR HAIAT: You want to try a bit later?

- Hi. The question I have is about the rumor and retraction of the idea that there was ground action. Is that now accepted to have been a deliberate deception in order to draw Hamas troops into tunnels for aerial attacks? Can you tell us a bit more about that in general?

JONATHAN CONRICUS: So, no. As I have stated very clearly and been quoted as such, that was not a deliberate deception. That was an honest mistake. And not at all a deception. We hold our relations with the international media very dearly. We work hard to keep them as such. We work hard to establish and maintain the credibility of our unit.

It is high. And unfortunately, mistakes happen. It is a human-- human factor, human trait. And that's the-- that's the gist of it. An error, an honest mistake, and nothing else.

LIOR HAIAT: Thank you, Jonathan. I know that you're short in time. We'll take two more questions, if you don't mind.

JONATHAN CONRICUS: [INAUDIBLE]

LIOR HAIAT: OK, so we'll move to Tom O'Connor. Tom.

TOM O'CONNOR: Hi. Thank you very much for doing this, as always, both Johnathan and Lior. I understand the circumstances. And we really appreciate you keeping us updated. I do want to follow up on that last question just real quick because I entirely understand the explanation of it not being a intentional effort to deceive foreign media. But I thought there was some-- I thought there was some reporting to the extent that there was some effort there to deceive Palestinian militants, specifically Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to go into tunnels.

And my first question actually was going to be if there's any estimates of how many militants have died during that ground operation, combined operation, I should say, at that time because I know that tunnels were a big part of it. If there's an estimate, how many casualties there were. And my second question was going to be also going off a previous point. I understand now that the IDF is not interested at this moment in the mediation efforts. But Jonathan, you had said earlier that if Hamas were to stop firing rockets that there might be some room for talks.

So I was just kind of wondering whether if one of the IDF's goals include to get Hamas to stop firing rockets. Is there any action on their part they can take now to bring in a mediation effort? Just a little clarification on that. And thank you both, again.

JONATHAN CONRICUS: So the tunnel system, what we call the metro, the Hamas metro, not for civilians, and not to take you to metro as in Paris, right? It doesn't take you to the Eiffel Tower. It takes you to terror towers, and it takes you to terror facilities. And it allows Hamas to operate almost unharmed, even-- or despite the significant military advantages that we have. And this is infrastructure that Hamas has spent many years building. Lots of money has been invested.

And it's really at the heart of their combat doctrine and concept. This is what they rely on. They rely on the security, the mobility, the concealment that the underground dimension allows them. And the fact that we struck this infrastructure, and according to our understanding, struck it effectively and caused many kilometers of the infrastructure to collapse and rendered it useless is maybe, first and foremost, a psychological blow to Hamas and their leadership, and secondly, also a physical blow in terms of operatives.

It will take time to know and understand how many terrorists, how many enemy combatants were killed, because they're underground and they're quite difficult to access. But we are looking into it. And obviously looking, listening, and many other things in order to understand how many.

And I think that the tunnel network that Hamas spent a lot of time building and excavating is something of significant importance for the future. It's something that Hamas really built this concept around. And I'll leave it at that.

Second question, first thing-- I mean, it's obvious. And then, you know-- then, our elected leadership will have to deal with negotiations, and there will be terms, and there will be all kinds of conditions. But to the best of my knowledge, there's no use in even talking about any of that without the end to the firing of rockets. But simply no use. And I don't think that any country, not the US and not any other country around the world, would be negotiating a cease fire with a terrorist organization that is firing rockets at the civilians. I think it's simply not feasible.

- And to just-- sorry, sorry, just to make sure I got that first-- the first question, the first part that I had asked, right. The announcement of the ground operation, not including foreign media's perception of it, but was there an effort to get the Palestinians into those tunnels by doing so?

JONATHAN CONRICUS: The aim of the operation was to kill enemy combatants. That was the aim.

- Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

JONATHAN CONRICUS: Thank you.

LIOR HAIAT: Thank you. And--

JONATHAN CONRICUS: Maybe we can take the question from [INAUDIBLE].

LIOR HAIAT: Yeah, [INAUDIBLE].

- Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it.

LIOR HAIAT: And this is the last-- sorry. This is the last question for Jonathan. I'm sorry for the rest of you that were waiting. We will continue this press conference afterwards. We have another speaker coming up.

- Thank you. First, could you, perhaps, share the numbers in an email or something like that afterwards? There was a lot of numbers that it would be interesting just to have them. So [INAUDIBLE] all the numbers are straight. And then, please elaborate on the results of your military actions such as the strike on the tunnels and also on infrastructure such as what you called the tower where Hamas and Islamic Jihad were. And finally, what would you consider to be the end goal of the military actions towards Hamas?

JONATHAN CONRICUS: Right. The effect of our activity, of our military activities so far against Hamas, we assess that we have significantly degraded Hamas and Islamic Jihad's ability to produce new rockets. And that's very important for future reference. I think it's very important for Hamas because what they are firing now are rockets that they will not be able to replete for a few years.

And if they can't fire rockets, that means they have bigger chances for stability. So one significant thing is the ability, research and development and production of new rockets. That has been significantly hit, both in terms of hardware, the locations where this work is done, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the subject matter experts, the professionals, the engineers and the developers of these weapon systems that have been taken out by Israel.

We've issued various statements, information about their names, their roles, who was doing what. And so with a lot of them we had very good intelligence about where they were and what they were doing, and that's an important factor. We have degraded a lot of their capability-- a lot of their infrastructure both underground and above ground.

And whenever this ends, whenever they come out of hiding, if they're still alive, the terrorists, then they will find a very different landscape and far less assets than what they had before they started. And that will influence the organization quite significantly.

Third, we have taken out a lot of the senior military leadership of Hamas. Many senior commanders have been killed even though they were in hiding, many of them hiding in those bunkers, in the bunker system that they built. Many of them were hiding there. We've been able to kill them. Senior brigade commanders and general staff, if you could call it that, for a terrorist organization, but general staff level officers have been killed and that is-- that impedes the ability to operate and to conduct their operations.

I think those are three key topics, research and development, infrastructure of all kinds, and personnel. And we will continue. As long as they're firing rockets, our efforts to degrade all of the capabilities across the board will continue until Hamas gets the message that what they did, their rocket attack against Jerusalem, against Tel Aviv and their continuous rocket fire is aggression that will not and has not gone unanswered.

LIOR HAIAT: Thank you again, Jonathan. And I know you have other commitments. [INAUDIBLE]

- We've been listening to Israeli officials discuss escalating violence in the region. The foreign ministry official began his remarks by saying Israel is under a, quote, "terrorist attack." And discussing the potential for a de-escalation of the violence, a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces said that their military operations would not stop until Hamas stopped launching rockets first.