Gaza's Kerem Shalom industrial goods crossing was reopened for traffic Wednesday morning, following relative quiet along the Gaza Strip border and southern Israel. The decision was made by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in conjunction with the IDF, and will allow for commercial goods to reenter the coastal enclave.
Israel closed the Kerem Shalon crossing to commercial goods on July 10 and shut down the entry of fuel and gas on July 17. He reopened the crossing briefly for fuel and gas at the end of the month, but then closed it again on August 1, as the violence continued.
Liberman stressed during an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday it is important to remember why the last few days have been the quietest since March 30, when Gazans began the "March of Return." Liberman said the reason for the relative quiet is because Hamas has taken significant hits in the last few days and understands that the next conflict with Israel would involve taking much tougher hits.
"It's clear Hamas has been significantly weakened. If Hamas returns to violence, the IDF's response will be tougher than what they have seen," he said.
The IDF earlier said the crossing would be opened for "full activity" in concert with a joint decision of Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Gadi Eisenkot.
"Following the decision of the Minister of Defense, Mr. Avigdor Liberman, in consultation with the Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the main cargo crossing into Gaza, the Kerem Shalom crossing, will be re-opened this morning for full activity," the army said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Liberman spoke with Eisenkot, in addition to the head of the National Security Council and a representative of the Shin Bet. During that conversation Liberman clarified that he wanted to send a message to the two million Palestinians that live in Gaza that peace is in their best interest, a point he reiterated on Wednesday morning.
Leah and Simcha Goldin, whose son Hadar's body is being held by Hamas as captive in the Strip, excoriated the proposed deal, asking rhetorically in a Twitter post what Israel is receiving as part of any deal. The Goldins are critics of any proposed deal that does not include the return of captives from Gaza, telling The Jerusalem Post in July it is the government's responsiblity to return captives home.
"730 trucks will cross Kerem Shalom today on their way to Hamas in Gaza. Please ask Netanyahu and the security cabinet what Israel is receiving in return. Did they even request anything? #Return_the_sons_first," the Goldins wrote on Twitter.
Channel 10 reported the family petitioned the High Court of Justice to demand the meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Captives and Missing People of the prime minster's office, which the station said has not meet in over a year.
Simcha Goldin chastised the potential deal, telling Channel 10, "Netanyahu brought my son into battle and he did not return him."
"We suggest putting the return of soldiers at the top of the government's priorities with regard to Hamas, that's what the prime minister promised us four years ago," Simcha Goldin added.
"The public needs to understand there will be no quiet here so long as Hamas is there [in Gaza]," he warned. "In the last four years, Israel has strengthened Hamas more and more [and] Hamas is at the height of its power. They are squeezing us and we are giving in to them — getting quiet only conditionally. In another two weeks they'll shoot again because they'll need something else."
Meanwhile, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet and chair of Bayit Yehudi, said Tuesday night his party would oppose any ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas
, warning it would turn Hamas into "Hezbollah 2." Bennet was the first senior Israeli coalition minister to publically recognize the overtures toward ceasefire being worked on between the two sides, as most have denied any such talks thus far.
"This 'quiet' will give Hamas total immunity so that it can rearm itself with tens of thousands of rockets that will threaten all parts of the country," Bennet remarked. "After 130 days of incendiary terror and rockets, we must not reward the terrorists without the return of our captives. The terrorists will learn that terror pays and Israel's deterrent power will be harmed."
Israel's security cabinet is due to meet at 10 A.M. to discuss the issue, Army Radio reported, their third-such meeting in a week.
The defense minister also said Gazans need to understand they only benefit from quiet and a cessation of violence, not Hamas' actions, and underscored Israel has never discussed a ceasefire with Hamas directly.
"So long as there is quiet, Gaza's residents will benefit. If the violence returns, they will be the first ones to lose; this equation works. The last four days have been the quietest in the Gaza border communities since March," he said.
"We have never, and will never talk with Hamas," Liberman continued, clarifying Israel instead speaks with interlocutors, specifying the UN, US and Egypt.
In a Facebook post directed at the people of Gaza written in Arabic, Liberman said they have "much to gain when the citizens of Israel enjoy peace and security, and much to lose when quiet is disturbed."
"The residents of Gaza must understand that Israel is not the problem, but rather the solution. The problem is the Hamas leadership, which uses civilians as live ammunition and as human shields," he wrote, published on the Facebook page for Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. "We hope for you, the residents of Gaza, that all of the budgets of Hamas and the international community will be channeled towards your welfare and to the development of the Gaza Strip, instead of to terrorism. Gaza has the potential to become the Singapore of the Middle East."
While specifying the need to return captives, Liberman wrote only the reality on the ground will dicatate the situation moving forward, warning of potential future actions should violence restart.
"But what will ultimately be the deciding factor is not the proposals, but the reality on the ground, and lest anyone have any doubts: We will do everything to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel, and if Hamas turns to violence again, we will respond immediately and in a much more severe manner than before," he wrote.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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