Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike on Hamas's television station, in Gaza City November 12, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AHMED ZAKOT)
The IDF warned Hamas of an “iron fist” response to the deluge of rockets on Monday, including one that hit an Ashkelon apartment building.
“The Hamas terrorist organization has crossed a red line in their attacks against the sovereignty of the State of Israel and its citizens over the past hours,” said the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun.
“The State of Israel will continue to respond with an iron fist against all terrorist activity or rocket fire coming from the Hamas terrorist organization,” he wrote on COGAT’s Arabic-language Facebook page, “el-Munasek.” “Residents of Gaza, look carefully at the pictures from Operation Protective Edge in 2014 – a picture is worth a thousand words.”
The UN and Egypt worked furiously to avert a Gaza war in the aftermath of the harshest exchange of fire between the IDF and Hamas since 2014.
On Tuesday, Israel’s security cabinet is scheduled to weigh whether to continue Israel’s policy of restraint or consider a harsh military response.
For more than four hours, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held security consultations with Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and other defense officials.
Operational decisions were made, according to an Israeli official, but the course of action was not publicized. Netanyahu plans to update the security cabinet about those decision on Tuesday.
But i24 reported that a decision had been reached not to hold back on a military response.
Liberman’s spokesman said that both the defense minister and Netanyahu saw “eye-to-eye” on the situation. In the past, Liberman had pushed for a military response while Netanyahu has called for restraint.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process tweeted that the “#UN is working closely with #Egypt and all concerned to ensure that #Gaza steps back from the brink.
The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless. Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all! No effort must be spared to reverse the spiral of violence.”
Palestinians in Gaza have fired more than 300 rockets at Israel, while the IDF has struck 70 targets in the Strip.
If both sides “fail to exercise maximum restraint, the situation will deteriorate significantly,” a diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post. Each rocket and IDF strike threatens to create a situation that would make another Gaza war inevitable.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “a new war in Gaza would be an incredible tragedy. We must avoid it at all costs.”
The EU’s Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret tweeted that he was “following with great concern the situation and the indiscriminate firing of rockets toward the south of Israel. Attacks on civilians are unacceptable and need to stop. Everyone must step back from the brink.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry agreed that the situation was dangerous because it could lead to a large-scale military operation and force a humanitarian collapse in Gaza. “Moscow looks with deep concern over this dangerous escalation,” its ministry said.
Russia held Israel responsible for the latest escalation, noting that it was provoked by Israel’s military operation in Gaza on Sunday night. Furthermore, the Russian Foreign Ministry called for the reunification of the Fatah and Hamas factions, and the resumption of a peace process with a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since it ousted Fatah in a bloody coup in 2007. It is presumed that any successful peace process must also include the end of that bitter rivalry.
Netanyahu returned to Israel on Monday morning from Paris, after cutting his trip short to deal with the Gaza crisis.
On Sunday, while in Paris, the prime minister told reporters that he would do everything possible to avoid a needless war in Gaza.
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