March 13 (UPI) -- Blue and White leader Benny Gantz vowed Wednesday that if elected prime minister he would resume targeted killings of Hamas leaders if the militant Palestinian organization attacks Israel.
During a press conference as part of a campaign tour of Israeli communities near the border of the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip, the former defense minister of Israel said, "we will enhance the support to the people of Gaza without compromising an inch of our security. If they attack us, they will face forceful action, even targeted killing, if required. Hamas knows precisely what we mean by that."
The comment comes as a criticism against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, which he said had done little to forward protective measures following Operation Protective Edge, a seven-week military operation Gantz led in 2014 with aims of restoring sustained peace to Israeli citizens by striking Hamas infrastructure in Gaza.
The military tactic, framed as a preventative measure by Israel, was condemned by rights groups, the United Nations Human Rights Council and foreign governments over the civilian casualties it caused.
Gantz said for three and a half years following the operation, Israel achieved "a period of calm. No rockets, no balloons, no kites."
But other than maintaining physical barriers along the Gaza border, nothing else had been done, he said, to thwart the recent escalation in violence between Palestine and Israel.
"We will change this placid policy and promote a stern strategy," he said, going so far as to say his government will "demand the return of our MIAs and captives" from Hamas.
The Kahol Lavan Party, known as the Blue and White Party in English for the colors of the Israeli flag, formed as a political alliance between Gantz's Israel Resilience Party and Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid Party on Feb. 21. Under the alliance, if the Blue and White Party is elected, Gantz would serve as prime minister for the first two and a half years after which time Lapid would take the country's helm for the back half of the term.
The comments by Gantz come on the heels of Israeli aircraft striking several Hamas targets within the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a rocket launched at Israel from the Palestinian territory.
Standing before the border, Gantz said behind him was "a protracted challenge" while in front were Israeli settlements "we must protect."
Gantz's centrist party is leading Netanyahu's ruling right-wing Likud Party in the polls.
The election is scheduled for April 9.