Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman, Chief of Staff Eizenkot and others at urgent security cabinet meeting, Aug 9 2018.
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
With rockets falling on Sderot and snipers firing from Gaza on civilians, the security cabinet was scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss a possible five-year truce with Hamas.
Now, in light of the escalating situation in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled an urgent security consultation after midnight Wednesday in Tel Aviv with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Chief of Staff Lt.-General Gadi Eizenkot, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman, and National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat.
This was the second security cabinet meeting on the matter in five days.
Wednesday’s escalation came following the IDF’s killing of two Hamas snipers on Tuesday. The IDF said that the strike on the snipers was an error, since the snipers were conducting a training drill and not firing at Israelis. Hamas pledged retaliation for that action, and the communities in the South were on alert throughout the day Wednesday, waiting for Hamas to deliver on its threat.
Wednesday night's intense rocket fire on Sderot led to an Israeli military response before and throughout the security cabinet meeting.
Raw footage of Hamas terrorists shooting at IDF troops from an outpost in the Gaza Strip and IDF retaliation, August 7, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
According to reports by the Israeli national new, the IDF carried out strikes against over 100 Hamas terror targets, including rocket launch pads and terror tunnels.
The incidents came even as Hamas was signaling that it was interested in a five-year truce. Hamas leaders, who met over the last few days in Gaza to discuss the cease-fire proposal brokered by Egypt and UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov, traveled back to Cairo Wednesday to deliver their response.
IDF strikes 12 Hamas terror sites, including a factory used to manufacture tunnels and a maritime terror tunnel shaft, August 8, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Turkey’s Anadolu news agency quoted a Hamas source as saying that the deal will be revealed before the end of August. According to the report, Hamas and Israel would observe a two-week trial cease-fire as part of the deal.
Before the security cabinet meeting on the Gaza issue on Sunday, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz posted on Twitter that “the situation in Gaza is nearing a decision, either an arrangement or war.”
That characterization remains as true before Thursday’s meeting as it was on Sunday. During that meeting the cabinet ministers were briefed on the truce negotiations, and told that the failure of Hamas and Fatah to reach a reconciliation agreement is a significant stumbling block to any deal.
That cabinet meeting also dealt with various scenarios that could lead to an escalation. At the end of the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that the IDF “is prepared for any scenario.”
It is likely that Thursday’s meeting will also end without any conclusive decision.
The truce under consideration includes a number of phases, with the first one being an end to Hamas violence, including the incendiary kites and balloons and the violent Friday protests along the border fence.
In response, Israel would fully reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing, and Egypt would open the Rafah crossing into Gaza.
Another phase would be the building of major infrastructure projects to serve Gaza, such as a seaport and airport, in Egypt, at El Arish and Ismailia.
And the final phase would be the eventual easing of the Israeli blockade around Gaza, with suitable monitoring mechanisms in place, and international and Israel financial assistance to the coastal Strip.
The truce would also include the return to Israel of the bodies of the IDF soldiers being held by Hamas, as well as a return of the two Israeli citizens being held in Gaza. It is not clear, however, at what point of the truce this would be carried out.
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