A demonstrator holding Palestinian flags shouts during a protest calling for lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza, at the beachfront border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip November 5, 2018.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
Israel wants only three things from Gaza: quiet, demilitarization and the terror group taking responsibility for the coastal enclave, Housing Minister and former IDF southern commander Yoav Gallant told The Jerusalem Post.
“We must look forward. We, on one hand, need to make sure that Hamas doesn’t get stronger and on the other hand, we must make sure the people of Gaza get proper humanitarian aid,” said Gallant, who is also a member of the security cabinet, told the Post in his Jerusalem office ahead of the paper’s annual Diplomatic Conference.
The Gaza Strip, which has been devastated following several conflicts with Israel, is facing what the United Nations said could result in a “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis. The 11-year-long blockade has caused Gazans to be deprived of basic commodities such as food, fuel, medicine or enough water and sanitation facilities when the power is off.
The violent riots along the Gaza security fence, which began in March, has led to 219 Palestinian fatalities, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. It has also led to fears of another military operation against Hamas to restore the quiet seen in the four years since Operation Protective Edge.
“These are Palestinian provocations which say, ‘We are ready to spill our blood in order for the world to wake up,’” said Gallant, who was the head of the Southern Command from 2006 to 2008. He added that “the border protests led to only Palestinians deaths.”
“Hamas has no real military solution,” Gallant said, explaining that Israel has shut off the Hamas-run coastal enclave from every angle, thus imposing a land and sea blockade and destroying underground cross-border attack tunnels. Launching rockets toward Israel has also become much harder for Hamas and other terror groups due to Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
According to Gallant, Hamas then resorted to fire terror and the weekly violent border protests.
While no Israeli civilian has been killed due to the violence along the fence, the first Israeli soldier to be killed on the Gaza front in four years occurred during one of these protests when he was hit with a high-powered rifle. Another IDF soldier was badly injured by another sniper in the same area days later in an ambush. Several other IDF soldiers were injured by explosive devices planted along the fence.
But after months of weekly violent riots along the Gaza security fence and dozens of rockets and mortars fired into Israeli territory, efforts to craft a long-term cease-fire
agreement between Israel and Hamas are seemingly within grasp.
And with a decrease in violence in recent weeks and thanks to a steady supply of fuel to Gaza paid for by Qatar, Palestinian residents have begun to report of an increase in electricity supply to as much as 12 to 16 hours a day, almost double the daily average Gazans saw over the past year, when electricity was limited to between four and six hours.
But, Gallant stressed, Israel is not responsible for the situation in the coastal enclave.
“We didn’t choose Hamas. The people of Gaza chose Hamas and it is Hamas holding them hostage, not us,” the minister said. “We left Gaza 13 years ago, have they built one school? No. They built tunnels and rockets and continued increasing their terror activities. Gaza is being held hostage by a terror group. There’s no freedom. There’s nothing different than North Korea. It’s the same thing.”
According to Gallant, there is no group or individual who could take over from Hamas, not even the Palestinian Authority
“who likes us to fight for them, to sacrifice our soldiers for them.”
Nevertheless, he stressed, no side wants war. Israel also does not want to return to Gaza, nor does it want to reoccupy the Strip.
“Whoever wants to reoccupy Gaza needs to think of the consequences,” he said, explaining that Israel must “strengthen the situation and not destroy it. As long as Hamas keeps Gaza hostage, the first and only solution is to make sure the humanitarian situation is okay.”
“If you give us flowers you will get candy,” Gallant said. “But if you give us rockets, you will get bombed.”
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