Avigdor Liberman visits the Gaza border communities (August 24, 2018)..
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
A long term ceasefire agreement with Hamas is not possible as long as it holds fast to its goal of destroying Israel, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Friday morning during a visit to the Gaza border.
Hamas “is a terrorist organization whose sole objective is the destruction of the State of Israel. Therefore, I do not think we have anything to talk about with Hamas,” Liberman told reporters after he met with heads of Gaza border communities.
“The only thing we are discussing with the help of the Egyptians and through the others is that, aside from issues relating to the crossing and the fishing areas, until the matter of the prisoners of war and the missing soldiers is resolved,” Liberman said.
Hamas must be made aware of this, and then Hamas must also stop its military build-up, including its rockets and work on the terror tunnels, he said.
The organization spends its money on arms, and leaves the international community to care for its people by funding education, health and water treatment facilities, Liberman said.
“This is unacceptable,” Liberman said, adding that Israel would do what was necessary to ensure the protection of its citizens. All other issues would have to wait, he said.
The Defense Minister explained that he personally was not part of the cease-fire talks.
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“I don’t believe in the cease-fire. The only arrangement that exists is the reality on the ground. In the last few days we have seen that Hamas has absolute control over what happens in here [in Gaza],” Liberman said.
He spoke in the middle of continued reports that the United Nations and Egypt were close to an arrangement for a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas.
Liberman said he dismissed the possibility that the border fence protests under the auspices of the “Great March of Return” were part of a popular citizen uprising, and he said it was important to understand that it is Hamas which controls Gaza.
Liberman charged that Hamas had organized the event, which began on March 30 and has continued through this weekend. It has involved violent border riots, infiltrations, stone and Molotov cocktail throwing, as well as the launching of incendiary devices, such as flaming kites and balloons.
“It’s a fact that the violence has gone down to almost zero in the last few days,” he said.
The Defense Minister emphasized the importance of linking a cessation of violence with the operation of Israel’s two Gaza crossings, one for goods at Kerem Shalom and the other for pedestrians at Erez.
Israel closed the Kerem Shalom crossing to commercial goods on July 10 and reopened it only on August 15, after a significant drop in Hamas violence against Israel.
On August 19, Israel closed the Erez crossing after Palestinian violence broke out along the Gaza border two days before.
On Friday, Liberman warned Hamas and the Palestinians in Gaza that Kerem Shalom, Gaza’s main commercial crossing, would only remain open if the calm continued.
“When there is terror, there is no economy, and when there is no terror, then there will be an economy. There must be a direct link. This is an important message that we want to convey to the Gaza residents, to the average person in Gaza who is concerned about his livelihood and worries about how to feed his family,” Liberman said.
If Friday passes quietly, the Kerem Shalom crossing will remain open. But if there is no quiet, then the crossing will be closed, Liberman said.
After he spoke, Palestinians continued to riot on Friday afternoon as part of the regular protests. The IDF reported that thousands of Palestinians took part in riots in five locations along the Gaza border. One protester infiltrated the border fence, but quickly returned to the Gaza side of the barrier.
Rioters burned tires, hurled rocks and threw fire bombs at IDF soldiers along the Gaza fence, the army said, adding that IDF troops responded with riot dispersal means.
On Sunday, the Kerem Shalom crossing is expected to open for commercial goods, but the pedestrian crossing at Erez will remain closed for all but humanitarian-related travel.
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