Netanyahu and Barak at Iron Dome site 390.
(photo credit: GPO / Amos Ben-Gershom)
Israel will fortify some 1,800 homes and public buildings in 26 communities
within 7 km. of the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on
Netanyahu, who spoke during a visit to an Iron Dome battery
near Ashkelon with Defense Minister Ehud Barak as the rockets continued to pound
the South, said he decided to accept the recommendation of the Defense and the
Home Front Defense ministries to widen the radius around Gaza that will receive
full protection against rocket and mortar fire.
Until now this protective
umbrella was spread around communities within 4.5 km. of Gaza. Communities
between 4.5 and 7 km. from the Strip had their schools fortified with safe
rooms, and were also covered by Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries, but their homes
were not fortified.
Now, Netanyahu said, those communities would be fully
“We did not choose this escalation and did not initiate it,”
the prime minister said of the current attacks from the Gaza Strip. “But if they
continue we are prepared for a much wider and deeper action. In any event we
will continue with our preventive actions. Anyone who attacks Israeli citizens
needs to know that he will pay.”
Citizens and municipal heads in
communities bordering the Strip have been complaining for years about the lack
of the necessary protection from the rocket and mortar attacks, with some asking
why it took Netanyahu this long to come to the conclusion that the added
protection is needed. Voices were also raised linking his declaration on
Wednesday to the upcoming elections.
Barak, asked about this claim during
a Channel 2 interview, said work on fortifying the communities was beginning now
because “we have succeeded in convincing the relevant
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, at the start of a
meeting with visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said the
situation in the South was “completely unacceptable.”
Israel would not
tolerate the situation to continue as is for long, Liberman said, warning that
“I think we are before a serious escalation.”
He called on Ashton and the
EU to be more involved “not only with demands to Israel to alleviate the
measures against Gaza, but to stop this terrorist activity, the smuggling of
explosive and weapons.”
Ashton also met with Netanyahu and President
Shimon Peres, who said that no one in Europe, Asia or America would tolerate a
situation where “there are a million people, mothers and children, sitting in
shelters and being bombed.”
“We are behaving with a great deal of
patience; we don’t want to see anyone being killed in Gaza, but no one in the
world could agree to the current situation,” the president said.
also referred to Tuesday’s visit
to Gaza by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad al-
Thani, saying when he “comes with lots of money and donates it for construction,
we have no problem with that. But Europe must understand that the money isn’t
being used for construction, but rather to fire and to kill.”
was less diplomatic in regards to the emir, saying in an Israel Radio interview
that the Qataris were a “little intoxicated by power” and were exaggerating
He said that Qatar’s objective was to “be on the
map,” and that this was “confusing their thinking.”
The foreign minister
added that the Qataris were thinking of themselves as a “regional power, using
their money in Al Jazeera and the Arab League to play on the world
“All their assistance to Gaza does not go to housing or
rehabilitation, it goes to terrorism,” Liberman said.
meanwhile, spoke on the way to the Iron Dome battery with the mother of Capt.
Ziv Shilon, the officer severely wounded Tuesday on the border with
“I told her that we will do everything to help Ziv’s
rehabilitation, and I want to wish – in the name of Israel – a speedy recovery
to Ziv. Ziv, be strong, the entire nation is embracing you.”Greer Fay
Cashman contributed to this report.