After the first Gaza-launched rocket attack in months was fired over the weekend, the IDF responded with a counterstrike against the Gaza-ruling Hamas group and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned of more if the terror attacks resume. Commenting on the recent period of extraordinary quiet experienced in Israel’s south, Bennett said on Sunday, “We will take strong action against any attempt to undermine this quiet. The price that we will exact from the enemy for every action against our people will be high and painful.”
The weekend’s rocket attack was intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system, according to the IDF Twitter account. In response, a separate post indicated that the IDF launched airstrikes against “a weapons manufacturing site & 3 other Hamas military posts in Gaza. We hold the Hamas terrorist organization responsible for all terrorist activity emanating from Gaza.”
The Gaza Strip has historically been a terrorist hotbed with a variety of terror factions who would attack Israel at different times for different reasons. However, Bennett made it clear on Sunday that Hamas would be held accountable for every attack from Gaza as the territory’s ruling authority, regardless of the official “reason” for the rocket fire. Said Bennett in comments published by his office, “Unlike in the past we no longer make excuses for the terrorists, neither are we defining them as breakaway factions or electrical mishaps. As far as we are concerned, Hamas is the address.”
The Times of Israel pointed out that this was the first Gaza rocket incident since April. It is the just the 12th such attack by either rockets or mortars in over a year. A separate report cited Israeli officials in saying only 11 projectiles had previously been fired since the last major conflict with Hamas in May last year, the most quiet the Israeli south has had from rocket fire since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. That was a point Bennett reiterated in his comments on Sunday.
Since the Israel withdrawal from Gaza—which was partly intended as a gesture of peacemaking—Hamas and other terrorists have fired thousands of rockets at Israel and the IDF has battled Gaza in multiple wars. Israel has also tried other techniques and motivations to reduce the rocket attacks. Israel’s current government has shifted away from some of those approaches, while reemphasizing holding Hamas accountable.
“We immediately stopped the transfer of suitcases of dollars to Hamas and switched from a policy of containment vis-a-vis the firing at Israelis to one of zero tolerance,” said Bennett on Sunday. “Alongside this we also changed our approach to the residents of the Gaza Strip and opened up for them the possibility of working in Israel. The average salary of a resident of Gaza is around NIS 800 [roughly $231 USD] and in Israel it is around NIS 8,000 [approximately $2,313 USD]. This acts as quite a restraint and also differentiates between Hamas and the residents.”
Bennett also highlighted the upgraded efforts at stopping the re-arming of terrorists in Gaza, who have historically smuggled in weapons via the border with Egypt in and around the Rafah crossing, despite efforts to hinder such weaponization.
“In the past we would buy a temporary quiet but would pay for it with the armament [of Gaza terrorists]. The armament process is very slow, the slowest it has been in years because we have closed off the possibility of bringing in weaponry via Rafah in cooperation with Egypt and the US,” said Bennett.
The latest rocket fire on Israel’s south may not have caused any physical damage, but attacks like this still take a toll. In a Twitter post after the most recent attack, the IDF tweeted “For civilians in Israel, air-raid sirens mean that terrorists have fired a deadly rocket toward them. Over 100,000 people in the city of Ashkelon heard this siren tonight. They had just 30 seconds to run for safety. We will defend them.”
That cost of conflict is a good reason to try and keep the peace in southern Israel, and if that fails, to enforce it. Said Bennett, “We insist on absolute quiet for the residents of Ashkelon, Sderot and the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. For the first time, there is a younger generation in the south that has experienced quiet. Our goal is safety and quiet lives for the residents of the south as well as preventing the renewed armament of Hamas.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, June 19, 2022)