Even as the situation in the South seemed to de-escalate Sunday evening, the
security cabinet earlier in the day empowered the IDF to “continue acting
against terrorist elements in order to stop the firing on Israel and return
quiet and routine to the south.”
The security cabinet met following the
weekly cabinet meeting and was briefed on the situation in and around Gaza over
the last few days.
Iron Dome works in combat, intercepts Katyusha rocket
IDF to move Iron Dome to Gush Dan region in weeks
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who went to visit
an Iron Dome counterrocket defense system near Ashkelon after the security
cabinet meeting, said it was Israel’s intent that quiet return to the
“I hope that is also Hamas’s intention. If that is its intent,
then the quiet will return. If Hamas increases its attacks, it will feel the
might of our response, which will be much, much harder.”
Netanyahu said, dealt Hamas painful blows following its “criminal attacks” on
“There is no state that would be willing to absorb the
intentional firing of an anti-tank missile on a school bus, to say nothing of
criminal attacks on civilians. And Israel is certainly not willing to tolerate
this,” he said.
Netanyahu praised the Iron Dome system, and those who
developed it and operate it, saying it was a “very impressive technological
At the same time, he said, it was necessary to understand that it
was impossible, even with all the technological developments, to protect every
house and installation in the country.
“We can do a lot more, Netanyahu
said, “but in the final analysis our true defense is a combination of defensive
capabilities with deterrent offensive capabilities.”
In addition to
empowering the IDF to do what it takes to bring down the attacks from Gaza, the security
cabinet, according to a statement put out after the meeting, approved a
large-scale national homeland security drill.
The message that the
government was trying to send with this announcement, one government official
said, was that it was taking all measures – offensive and defensive – to protect
the country’s civilians.
Netanyahu visited Ashkelon along with Defense
Minister Ehud Barak who said at the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel holds
Hamas responsible for everything that happens in Gaza, and that it did not
differentiate between Hamas’s political and military echelons – a reference to
reports that Hamas’s political echelon was opposed to the attacks that were
carried out by the group’s military arm.
He said that in recent days
Israel has received messages from various political sources that Hamas was
interested in a cease-fire. One of those messages was reportedly delivered by
the UN’s Mideast envoy, Robert Serry.
A spokesman for Serry had “no
comment” when asked about the matter.
One Israeli source said Serry’s
involvement could potentially be problematic, since the UN is not supposed to
have any formal contact with Hamas, and Serry – according to the source –
apparently delivered a message from Hamas Prime Minister Ismail
In a related development, AFP reported that Arab League head Amr
Moussa, a leading presidential contender in Egypt’s scheduled elections in
September, said his organization would ask the UN Security Council to impose a
nofly zone over Gaza, similar to what it imposed on Libya last
While the Foreign Ministry had no formal response, waiting to see
if this was serious or just rhetoric, one government official said it would be
“interesting” to see whether the “Arab League proposal for a no-fly zone
included the flying over the border of groundto- ground missiles, anti-tank
missile and mortar shells, or whether it only applied to the Israeli response to
the attacks from Gaza.”
In a similar vein, AFP reported that the Turkish
government released a statement condemning Israel’s “excessive and
disproportionate” strikes on Gaza.
“We strongly condemn the excessive and
disproportionate reprisals of Israel that have injured and killed civilians in
Gaza,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement, urging Israel to employ
good sense and moderation.
“The region cannot be allowed to enter into a
new spiral of violence,” the statement said.
By contrast, there were no
reports that the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a similar statement condemning
the killing of dozens of protestors in Syria over the weekend.
related development, the National Security Council’s counter- terrorism bureau
issued a statement Sunday warning that following the events in Gaza, “terrorist
elements intend to perpetrate attacks against Israelis and Jews overseas ahead
of – and during – the Pessah holiday, in the Mediterranean Sea basin and in the
The bureau recommended that Israelis abroad vary their daily
routines by changing regular itineraries, restaurants, tourist venues and
hotels, and avoid places frequented by large numbers of Israelis.
situation in Gaza is expected to be one of the topics that Netanyahu will
discuss on Monday at a biannual luncheon with EU ambassadors stationed in
In addition, Netanyahu – just a few days before the Quartet is
expected to meet in Berlin – is expected to urge the ambassadors against the EU
supporting a proposal that the Quartet issue a statement calling for the
parameters of a future Israeli-Palestinian agreement to be based on the 1967
lines, with agreed upon land swaps.
Netanyahu is expected to argue that
moves such as these serve as a disincentive for negotiations, since they
reinforce the Palestinian sense that they can get more from the international
community by staying away from the table, than by restarting talks.
also likely to ask how Israel can be expected to agree where its eastern border
will be without knowing anything about the nature of the peace that will be
In addition, the prime minister is expected to address the
reports that a large flotilla will set forth from Europe for Gaza next month,
and call upon the ambassadors to urge their governments to do what they can to
dissuade their nationals from taking part.