Edited from the speech given by Israel's ambassador to the UN before the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
Five years later, the greenhouses we left behind had been ransacked by Hamas, over 8,000 rockets and mortars had been fired on schools and kindergartens in Sderot and other Israeli towns, and an unceasing supply of weaponry was smuggled through tunnels into Gaza from terror-sponsoring states like Iran.
Israel's urgent appeals to the international community were to no avail, and our attempts to extend a fragile cease-fire were met with new, increased barrages of missiles from Hamas. All the while the range of the attacks was increasing. Now Ashkelon and Beersheba were within reach. One million Israelis had to live within seconds of a bomb shelter.
The decision to launch a military operation is never easy. It is even more challenging when we have to face an enemy that intentionally deploys its forces in densely populated areas and launches rockets from crowded school yards and mosques. These are new and horrendous challenges, and we sought to deal with them responsibly and humanely.
Yet when we dropped millions of leaflets and made thousands of phone calls to warn civilians in advance of operations, we were witness to the callous and deliberate Hamas tactic of sending women and children onto the rooftops of terrorist headquarters and weapons factories.
In such cases, missions were aborted, letting the terrorists escape. Israel protected Palestinian civilians that Hamas had put at risk.