1 of 6 | A ball of fire is seen following an Israel air strike in Rafah near the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt an early on November 19, 2009. UPI/Ismael Mohamad | License Photo
JERUSALEM, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Israel inevitably will strike Hamas with a major offensive in the Gaza Strip "sooner or later," Israel army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said.
Gantz said Israel must initiate the operation, which will be "swift and painful," Haaretz reported.
"I do not advise Hamas to test our mettle," Gantz said.
Speaking Tuesday on Army Radio during the military's annual telethon, Gantz did not offer a timetable but said the offensive on Hamas-controlled Gaza would take place "when the conditions are right," without elaborating.
"I believe that the state of Israel cannot continue to live under the active threat of Hamas in the Gaza Strip," Gantz said.
"Sooner or later, there will be no escape from conducting a significant operation. The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] knows how to operate in a determined, decisive and offensive manner against terrorists in the Gaza Strip."
The interview came on the third anniversary of the start of a three-week Israeli assault on Gaza in which about 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
Gantz called that offensive "an excellent operation that achieved deterrence for Israel vis-a-vis Hamas" but said Israel must strike again to deter Hamas.
Tuesday night, Israeli attacks on suspected militants in Gaza killed at least three people, The Jerusalem Post reported. They were in retaliation for two short-range rockets fired into Israel by Palestinians Sunday and Monday, the newspaper said.