The timing of yesterday’s operation was dictated by the decision of the American and British governments to withdraw their wardens that had been sent there as part of the deal and understanding that the prisoners would be in this facility under international supervision. We made it known that we would not intervene as long as the international supervision was in place.
I want it to be clear, it never occurred to me that the international supervisors would leave and that these murderers, these murders of an Israeli minister and leader, would go free from prison without our capturing them and punishing them. We made it clear to all and sundry that the moment the supervisors left, we would be there in order to see that justice was done. We had reason to assume that the supervisors were about to leave; therefore, our forces were ready.
I gave the order, at the first moment, to IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz and to Defense Minister Mofaz – there were no time constraints, the operation would continue as long as necessary, even one or two days if need be. I demanded two things: that no IDF soldier or Israel Police officer be hurt. We were dealing with armed murderers; they could have barricaded themselves. I thought that they had to be brought to trial and not allowed to flee. I did not want Israeli blood to be spilled and I told our people to act slowly and patiently because I did not want an Israeli soldier or policeman to be hurt. I also demanded and instructed to avoid unnecessarily harming Palestinians who were not wanted by us. We did not want to destroy the structure and leave 200 dead, with the six fugitives among them. We needed to apprehend those whom we sought and release the rest. We are not at war with every Palestinian, we are not at war with every Palestinian policeman, we are not at war with every Palestinian citizen, we are at war with murderers.
The outcome was exceptional. We told the military and security personnel to leave the outside pressures to us, act quietly, patiently, wisely and in complete cooperation with the ISA, the Israel Police, the IDF and see to it that the fugitives come out, that those who do not need to be hurt are not, that no Israeli citizen, policeman or security personnel is hurt, and that the operation is a complete success.
I must note the wall-to-wall international backing. You heard British Foreign Minister Jack Straw and the US State Department personnel, none made any demands or used any pressure; all placed full blame on the Palestinian Authority. All gave full backing to our decision, to the way in which we waged this struggle and to the result that underscored to the whole world that terrorists will be brought to justice.
I would like to say to someone who was my political rival for many years, whom I never agreed with, to retired Maj.-Gen. and Israeli minister Rechavam Zeevy, may God avenge his blood, that the people of Israel restored your honor yesterday in the action that we took.