|Photo by: REUTERS/Amir Cohen|
Egypt mediates tacit truce on Gaza border
By TOVAH LAZAROFF AND YAAKOV LAPPIN
Israel and Hamas agree to hold their fire unless attacked; Defense Minister Barak praises "resilience" of rocket-wracked South.
An uneasy calm fell along the Gaza border by Tuesday evening, as a four-day
rocket barrage by Palestinians against the South trickled down to a small number
Two rockets slammed into the South during the day – a
long-range rocket landed near Ashdod in the morning, and a second projectile
exploded in the Hof Ashkelon Region. No injuries were reported.
Israel and Hamas sent signals to each other via Egypt that they would hold their
fire unless attacked, after five days of mounting violence.
involved in the Egyptian mediation confirmed both sides were ready to
“The message was clear, and Israel too told Egypt they were not
interested in escalation if rocket firing stopped. The situation now is calm for
calm and I hope it does not deteriorate,” the official told Reuters.
tacit truce arrested an escalation, but did not completely stop the violence or
the rhetoric, as Israel continued to promise that it would defend its
“Whoever thinks that he can routinely attack the daily lives of
the residents of the South without paying a heavy price is mistaken.
responsible for choosing the right time to exact the highest possible price and
so it will be,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said.
traveled to meet with southern council and regional council heads in Beersheba,
riding down from Tel Aviv in 55 minutes via a fast train. He did this to
underscore the message that the southern periphery area of Israel, where more
than 150 rockets have fallen, is intrinsically linked to the country’s
“I chose to... head down to Beersheba on the renovated train line
to show, through personal experience, the fast link between the Center to the
South. This line, which now allows travel to Beersheba in under an hour, shows
how close the Center is to the South,” the prime minister said.
heading to Beersheba he called a meeting of the inner security cabinet, which
according to Army Radio agreed Tuesday not to retaliate as long as the rocket
The cabinet agreed that if the rocket fire is renewed, than
Israel would increase the severity of its response in hopes of deterring further
violence from the Palestinians, Army Radio said.
Following the meeting,
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Gaza has a terrorist infrastructure
reminiscent of Hezbollah prior to the 2006 Lebanon War.
agreed to this situation, which goes against all of our agreements with the
Palestinians,” he said.
Other ministers said that Israel should consider
assassinating Hamas leaders.
On a trip down South on Tuesday morning,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that the hostilities had not
Barak traveled to the Gaza border to visit the IDF’s Gaza
Division and held a security evaluation with army chiefs.
He praised the
army officials for “a professional and systematic operation that is being
carried out,” adding that “Hamas and the terror organizations are absorbing
heavy blows in Gaza as a result.”
“This clearly isn’t over and we will
decide how and when to act the minute there will be a need to do so,” the
defense minister said, repeating similar statements he made over the past three
“I don’t want to address when or ways [to operate], because it
would not be right to give that information to the other side,” he
Barak reiterated that Israel “would not accept the harm to daily
life of our civilians,” adding that “we intend to bring back deterrence” and to
ensure that the IDF will be able to operate freely along the Gaza border fence,
where it has come under frequent attack in recent weeks.
Asked to respond
to the frustration of southern residents over the lack of a clear IDF response
to the recent Palestinian rocket barrages, Barak said, “I’d like to praise the
heads of councils and mayors... and civilians... on their resilience.” He added
that there was no speedy solution.
“On these issues it’s preferable to
act rather than to speak,” Barak noted.
In Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, prime
minister of Gaza’s Hamas government, praised the main armed factions in the
enclave for agreeing on Monday night to a truce.
“They showed a high
sense of responsibility by saying they would respect calm should the Israeli
occupation also abide by it,” he said.
Haniyeh spoke during an
unannounced visit to a hospital to see wounded Palestinians.
The EU and
the Arab League issued a joint statement of concern after a meeting with foreign
ministers from both groups in Cairo Tuesday.
“The ministers expressed
concern at the recent escalation in and around Gaza and welcomed the Egyptian
efforts aimed at reaching a ceasefire,” the statement said.
night, Israel asked the UN Security Council to condemn the recent barrage of
“The serious danger of an even greater escalation
hangs over our very volatile region.
Many Israeli civilians and soldiers
have been injured. Damage to property has been significant.
people in southern Israel remain under grave threat,” Ambassador to the UN in
New York Ron Prosor wrote in a letter.
He addressed it to the Security
Council and to UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon.
“Israel holds Hamas
fully responsible for all acts of terrorism flowing from Gaza,” Prosor wrote.
“The time for the Security Council to condemn Hamas terrorism with one voice is
now, before it is too late.”
Prosor also said that “the Palestinian
leadership has a fundamental responsibility to clearly condemn Hamas terrorism.
The silence that continues to echo from [Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud] Abbas’s office speaks volumes.”
Israel, he concluded, will take
all necessary steps to protect its citizens.
“Those who target Israelis
with terrorism today will pay a very heavy price tomorrow. Israel has exercised
– and will continue to exercise – our right to self-defense.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.