As Israel granted a record number of travel permits to Gaza merchants after weeks of explosive balloons, rockets and a sniper attack, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said he was trying his best to avoid a conflict with Hamas or Hezbollah to focus on Iran in Syria.On Tuesday, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories announced that it would increase the number of travel permits for Gaza merchants by 2,000, bringing the total number to 7,000 permits. COGAT also decided to expand Gaza’s fishing zone from 10 to 15 nautical miles. “In light of the relative calm in the Gaza envelope in recent days and the cessation of explosive balloons, it was decided after a security consultation to restore the civilian measures that were halted last weekend,” COGAT said Tuesday. Explosive balloons continued to detonate over the Gaza envelope since Tuesday.On Wednesday, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) snipers fired at Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border. The soldiers fired back and succeeded in hitting one of the terrorists. There were no Israelis wounded in the incident.When asked by Kan Reshet Bet’s Yaron Deckel on Thursday why the record number of permits were issued and the fishing zone was expanded considering the balloons and the shooting attack, Bennett avoided the question at first and, after being pressed, responded that Israel is preparing a “parallel path,” adding that the permits are just in the meantime.A security official confirmed to Walla! news that the decision to grant the permits and expand the fishing zone was made as preparations were made for the shooting attack on Wednesday and amid efforts to save the agreement for calm being discussed between Hamas and Israel. According to Kan news, intelligence reached the Gaza division about preparations for the attack and IDF soldiers were then called to the scene.BENNETT ADMITTED he was skeptical about the agreement that Egypt is attempting to mediate between Israel and Hamas and doesn’t believe in it. If the terrorism continues, the response won’t be just a one- or two-day solution, and it will take place when it is good for Israel, he said.Most likely, Israel will need to carry out a “very substantial” operation, Bennett said, adding that Israel is trying to avoid a conflict with Gaza or the other “fingers” of Iran and is instead trying to impact the “head” of the octopus.“I will do everything in order to prevent a third Lebanon war, a 14th Protective Edge, to go to the source, to go to the same people who pay $1 billion a year to Hezbollah,” he told Kan Reshet Bet. “It doesn’t make sense. We’re playing their game, and I’m not prepared to do this,”Bennett said he would strengthen diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Iran to get them out of Syria. He said he was concerned about striking deep in Syria, rather than along the borders with Gaza or Lebanon.Regarding Moscow’s role in Syria, Bennett said Russia is not protecting Iran but is just making sure that Israel does not harm Russia.Leah and Simcha Goldin, the parents of Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose body is being held by Hamas, spoke against a decision by Israel to give 7,000 entry permits to Gaza residents, the highest number of permits given since Hamas began controlling the Gaza Strip.“Israel continues to upgrade Hamas and distribute gifts and benefits as if [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar is not holding Hadar, Oron [Shaul] and Avera [Mengistu],” the Goldin’s tweeted on Thursday.
The tweet included a video with scales comparing what Israel gives to Hamas with what Hamas gives to Israel. Hamas’s list included rockets, explosive balloons and terrorist infiltration, while Israel’s list included gas, electricity, medicine and tires.The video includes an invitation to an event in Beersheba titled “Bringing back the boys,” featuring Israeli singers Idan Amedi, Natan Goshen, Ishay Ribo and more.Over the past few weeks, Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have warned that Israel will not tolerate the continuation of terrorist activity against Israeli citizens.בחסות נתניהו והקבינט, נכנסים 7,000 איש מעזה לישראל. מדובר בשיא בכמות האישורים מאז שחמאס שולט ברצועה.— לאה ושמחה גולדין (@Goldin1991) February 20, 2020
בסיוע נתניהו והקבינט, היום שוב ייכנסו לעזה עשרות מיליוני דולרים במזומן.
ישראל ממשיכה לשדרג את חמאס ולחלק מתנות והטבות, כאילו סינואר לא מחזיק בהדר, אורון ואברה. #הפסקנו_לשתוק pic.twitter.com/EpWItmH7pY