Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman holds a weapon during a visit to Sderot.
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
The day after two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip were intercepted over Sderot, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman urged Gaza border residents to remain calm, stressing that the IDF is prepared for any situation.
“We can all be calm,” Liberman said during a visit to Sderot on Thursday. “We know what to do, how to do it and when to do it. The Israeli Army is prepared for any scenario.”
According to Liberman, who was in Sderot to inaugurate a new building in the ELSEC security plant in the Sderot industrial zone, the recent rocket fire from Gaza has “nothing to do with Israel’s deterrence but [is due to] internal issues.”
“We hope that the residents of the Gaza Strip will force their leadership to invest all their efforts and funds in improving the economy of the Strip and not in digging tunnels, making rockets and firing them at Israel, thereby endangering the entire population of the Gaza Strip.”
Four rockets were fired into the country on Wednesday night, two intercepted over Sderot, another falling in open territory in the Eshkol region and a fourth falling short and damaging a UNRWA school in Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip.
Tamir Idan, the head of the Sdot Negev Regional Council, called on the IDF on Thursday to “respond to the rocket fire even if it leads to an escalation. We stand firm behind the IDF. We expect the state to respond forcefully against so-called ‘trickles.’ Terrorist organizations must understand that there is a high price to rocket fire at Israel.”
Over a dozen rockets have been fired from Gaza toward Israel over the past week and while IDF officials believe that Islamic Jihad terrorists are responsible for the rocket fire, the army retaliates against Hamas targets
in the Strip with air strikes and artillery fire.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis told Army Radio Thursday morning that this is because “Hamas is solely responsible for what happens in Gaza, so we expect them to stop the shooting and fulfill their responsibility.”
The deterrence built up since 2014 “wasn’t built in a day and it won’t come crashing down in a week,” he continued, stressing nonetheless that Israel will not accept anything other than total calm in the Strip.
“Hamas has only one option – to stop the rocket fire. Anything else is unacceptable. We will not allow this [rocket] fire to continue,” he continued.
“Hamas is playing a double game, and it’s a game we can’t allow. On the one hand, it tries to prevent launches from certain areas, [but] on the other, it calls for an intifada and tries to bring masses of people to protest along the [security] fence.”
Following Wednesday night’s rocket fire, Israeli jets struck three Hamas military positions in the Strip which were “used as training and weapons storage compounds.” Local media in Gaza reported that the positions, which included a Hamas naval site, were struck multiple times by Israel.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Gaza on Thursday to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, which has called for a new popular uprising, or intifada, and urged residents to head to the border fence to protest Trump’s recent Jerusalem declaration.
Clashes along the border this week has left at least two Gazans dead by IDF fire and dozens more injured.