Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that he regrets not ousting Hamas before he resigned and was sent to prison over bribery charges, he told Israeli TV channel i24 yesterday.
Hamas was elected in 2006 when the last Palestinian elections were held.
"We did not complete the operation," he said. "We could [have] removed Hamas from Gaza that day," he added, noting that it was a big and "unacceptable" mistake from the then defence and foreign ministers.
He continues: "The defence and foreign ministers said that completing the mission would have created huge damage inside Israel. For this mistake, Hamas recovered, became stronger and it is impossible to remove it from Gaza."
In 2009 Israel launched a 22-day war on Gaza that led to 1,436 deaths, including 410 children, 104 women and more than 100 elderly, in addition to more than 5,400 wounded, more than half of them children.
In 2012 Israel launched an eight-day war on Gaza that led to 162 deaths, including 42 children, 11 women and wounded more than 1,300.
In 2014 Israel launched a 51-day war on Gaza that led to 2,322 deaths, including 578 children, 489 women and 102 elderly, in addition to more than 11,000 wounded. All three wars were aimed to oust Hamas.
Commenting on the Great March of Return and incendiary kites, Olmert said he "does not expect to end terrorism and violence in a very short time".
Olmert, who was imprisoned over receiving bribe, doubted the use of live ammunition by the Israeli army to kill Palestinian protesters along the borders with Gaza: "We are strong enough to defend ourselves without killing people and we are able to avoid this," he said.
Olmert hailed the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza in 2005 and at the same time he advised the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down "with dignity" because premiership is "more important" than the prime minister himself.