Israel is ready to expand Operation Shield and Arrow to strike Gaza even harder, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

Netanyahu made the remarks in a phone call with mayors of towns in Israel’s south, as terrorists shot hundreds of rockets from Gaza to Israeli civilian centers, mostly in the South.

“We’re prepared for the possibility of broadening the campaign and for very severe blows, now and later as well,” the prime minister said.

“I think we will have the upper hand but we are in this battle and I appreciate your support and your standing strong,” he added.

An Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system is activated as rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, near Ashdod, Israel May 10, 2023 (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

As of Wednesday afternoon, defense sources’ assessment was that the rockets came from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, such that Israel has not expanded its pool of targets to include Hamas.

Israel sent messages to Hamas via Egypt on Tuesday that it should stay out of the fight or Israel will strike Hamas’s leaders.

Earlier Wednesday, the prime minister received updates from his military secretary Brig.-Gen. Avi Gil and held a security assessment at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu briefed opposition leader Yair Lapid on the goals and details of Operation Shield and Arrow on Wednesday morning.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen held a video conference with over 100 foreign ambassadors and diplomats stationed in Israel to tell them about Operation Shield and Arrow.

“Israel will not hesitate to fight to the end with the Iran-funded Islamic Jihad terrorist organization,” Cohen warned. “Their whole goal is to hurt Israeli civilians and sow destruction…Israel makes a constant effort to avoid harming innocent bystanders, unlike the Palestinian terrorist organizations who aim their terrorist attacks at Israeli civilians.”

Cohen, who cut a diplomatic visit to India short due to the operation, said that every missile from Gaza is “a double war crime,” in that it is shot from populated areas, using Gaza residents as human shields, towards civilian populations.

“The Government of Israel will not be deterred from defending its citizens with all of the tools it has,” he stated.

Members of Congress in the US spoke out in support of Israel

US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that “Israel has taken necessary action against terrorist leaders in the Gaza Strip to protect its citizens and maintain national security.”

“Such Iran-controlled terrorists pose a direct threat not only to Israel but also to the safety and security of the American people” Cruz stated. “The government of Israel has the responsibility and obligation to defend its citizens, and I stand with our ally as it confronts those who seek chaos and destruction.” 

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) tweeted: “Imagine how high the death toll would be were it not for Iron Dome, which has intercepted almost all the missiles fired and saved lives. I will continue voting for missile defense systems that protect civilians from terrorism.”

Brazil released a statement against “the bombing carried out…by the Israeli Air Force on residential areas in the Gaza Strip, in the State of Palestine, causing the death of at least 13 Palestinian citizens, including 10 civilians, among which were children.”

Brasilia appealed “to the parties to refrain from actions that lead to an escalation of terrorism” and called for a two-state solution, saying that managing the conflict is not a viable alternative.

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