(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
As fighting between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip entered its eighth week, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said Tuesday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas breached his commitment to prevent rocket fire on Israel from Gaza.
Demilitarization of the Gaza Strip is a matter that was incorporated into the Oslo agreements between Abbas's Fatah faction and Israel in the 1990s, Steinitz has noted in recent weeks.
Speaking to Israel Radio on Tuesday, Steinitz said Abbas was playing a "double game" and that while Hamas was launching rockets at Israel, Abbas was launching "diplomatic rockets" in the form of threats to turn to the United Nations and to join the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
The Intelligence Minister added that the strengthening of extremist Islamist elements in a number of Arab states shows that no risks should be taken in retreating from the West Bank so long as an agreement to demilitarize Gaza is not reached.
Projectile fire from Gaza continued to target Israeli villages next to the Gaza Strip and the nearby cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon on Tuesday. Early Tuesday morning, around 6:30 a.m. Ashkelon was targeted by rocket fire that injured dozens and at around the same time a rocket was intercepted over the greater Tel Aviv area.
The continued rocket fire came amid reports that an Egyptian brokered cease-fire was gaining acceptance by Hamas
. Israeli officials said on Monday that Israel would not agree to a cease-fire agreement while the rocket fire continued.
Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), said Tuesday the Hamas leadership in Gaza wants a cease-fire, but Khaled Mashaal, who resides abroad in Qatar is preventing it.
Speaking in an interview with Army Radio, Peri said, "The targeted assassinations have caused Hamas in the last week to covet a cease-fire," referring to IDF strikes which killed three senior Hamas commanders in Rafah last week. The IDF also targeted Hamas military chief Muhammad Deif
, but it remained unclear if he was killed in the strike.
Peri said the targeted assassinations hurt Hamas's chain of command as well as striking a blow to the morale of the organization.
"Those chosen to replace [assassinated commanders] are not always at the military level that Hamas requires," Peri said.
He said it was very "comfortable for Mashaal to be "stubborn" and not agree to a cease-fire, "while he's sitting in a hotel in Qatar, rather than dodging bombs in Gaza."