Islamic Jihad is a wholly owned Iranian subsidiary, so not only did the violence in the South not push Iran off the agenda, it instead thrust Iran front and center, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Likud’s cabinet ministers on Sunday.

Netanyahu’s comments came in response to suggestions that the Palestinians were now interested in a violent escalation to put them back on center stage, following Netanyahu’s trip to Washington where Iran completely overshadowed the Palestinian issue.

“This is about Iran,” said Netanyahu. “If it were not for Iran, these extremists would not have their weapons, training or logistical support.”

Islamic Jihad, which has fired off the majority of the scores of rockets that have hit the South in recent days, is fully supported and armed by Tehran, he said.

Netanyahu told the ministers that this round of violence “could take some time.” He added that while Hamas was not joining in the firing on Israel, the movement was also not preventing the rocket attacks, and that Israel held them ultimately responsible.

Netanyahu went to the South on Sunday afternoon to assess the situation and visit an Iron Dome battery site, where IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh and OC Air Force chief Maj.- Gen. Ido Nehushtan gave him a security briefing.

“You are doing exceptional work,” Netanyahu told the soldiers and officers manning the battery. “I tip the Jewish people’s hat to you.”

“My directive is to strike at whoever is planning to attack us,” he said. “The IDF is hitting the terrorist organizations very hard. The combination of offensive capability, defensive capability and civilian fortitude is a winning combination – and we have it.”

Afterward, the prime minister went to Ashdod and thanked municipal and regional heads for their leadership.

He said the IDF would acquire additional Iron Dome batteries and continue to improve protection of the home front.

One official said that despite over 150 rockets falling on the South over the last two days, there was no sense of hysteria – something giving the government maximum maneuverability in deciding how to respond.

Netanyahu justified the decision to assassinate Zuhair Qaisi, the commander of the Popular Resistance Committees whose killing on Friday triggered the recent violence, telling the weekly cabinet meeting that Qaisi was an “arch-terrorist” who organized many attacks against Israel, including the one last August on the Egyptian border.

“He was in the midst of planning another attack that was directed at our southern border with Egypt,” Netanyahu said.” We are still on alert regarding that attack and I have ordered the closure of the road on the Egyptian border.”

IDF operations inside Gaza “disrupted” planning for that attack, the prime minister said.

Netanyahu heaped praise on the Iron Dome system, saying he would do everything in his power to expand its deployment.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, responding to the near universal praise of the Iron Dome, said that as effective as it was, it was an illusion to think Israel could fund the purchase of enough batteries to provide cover for the whole country.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in his briefing to the cabinet over the weekend, said that the IAF carried out some 26 sorties – 15 of which were against terror cells firing off rockets, and the rest against arms and other terrorist infrastructure installations.

Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau warned about a possible rocket attack on the power plant in Ashdod, and said that if this happened, Israel should cut off all electricity to the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu did not respond to this suggestion.

Meanwhile, Shas announced it will hold its faction meeting Monday in Beersheba to show solidarity with residents of the South.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who heads Shas, said on Sunday, “Our hearts are with the citizens of the South, who have in recent days been under constant, merciless attack from terrorists in Gaza. We are coming to stand by them.”

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