IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot And the heads of local councils in southern Israel.
(photo credit: MUNICIPALITY OF SDEROT)
The IDF thwarted the smuggling of thousands of rockets into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, outgoing Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said on Tuesday during a farewell visit to southern Israel.
“We have foiled the smuggling of 15,000-20,000 rockets,” he said, while in the Eshkol Regional Council.
Despite this, 2018 has seen the most serious peak of violence between Israel and terrorist groups in the Strip since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, with over 1,000 rockets fired.
According to the IDF, Israel struck targets belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza 865 times over the past year in response to rockets fired towards southern Israel. The targets struck by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) included headquarters, tunnels, military positions, technological facilities, training camps, weapons caches and the growing naval arm of Hamas.
But according to foreign reports, Israel has also operated beyond its borders to thwart the smuggling of rockets into the blockaded coastal enclave.
On Sunday, CBS News aired an interview with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
in which he said that military cooperation between Egypt and Israel has reached “unprecedented levels” in the Sinai Peninsula.
In Israel, the military censor restricted reports of the cooperation, following the interview with CBS’s Scott Pelley the channel was contacted by the Egyptian Ambassador and was told that the interview could not be aired.
Israel has a 240-kilometer border with the restive Sinai Peninsula, Cairo and Jerusalem have been reported to be closely cooperating in the fight against militants since Sisi rose to power.
In April, Dr. Fadi Mohammed al-Batash, a Hamas-affiliated Palestinian engineer from the Gaza Strip was killed near the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in an assassination which was blamed on Israel’s Mossad.
In December 2017, Hamas’s chief drone expert and engineer Mohamed Zouari, was shot dead in Tunisia in an assassination that was also blamed on the Mossad. According to its armed wing, the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, Zouari – who had been a member of the group for 10 years and supervised its drone program – was gunned down in his car near his home close to the city of Sfax.
During his four years as the IDF’s top officer, Eisenkot also worked to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, something the United Nations has warned was close to happening.
“I hope for a long ceasefire until the end of 2019 – until then we can complete the barrier,” he said during his visit on Tuesday, adding that “to this day I do not believe that anything else can be done in Gaza.”
Referring to the Qatari money being channeled into the Gaza Strip
by Israel, Eisenkot said that while “Hamas sees a great victory in the political moves that are taking place in Israel as a result of terrorism,” it was in Israel’s interest to move the Gazan economy forward.
Eisenkot also oversaw the building an underground barrier to cut off Hamas tunnels as well as strengthening the fence above ground.
The Head of the Eshkol Regional Council Gadi Yarkoni expressed his appreciation during the visit, saying “Eisenkot oversaw the IDF’s defense of the Gaza border communities during the most challenging of times. Under his command and counseling, the Israeli government took the decision to undergo the project against the terror tunnels.”
Israel has completed 27 kilometers of the underground barrier so far, which will also stretch into the Mediterranean to stave off a Hamas infiltration by sea. It is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The military has also destroyed 15 terror tunnels which infiltrated into Israeli territory this past year, including one operational tunnel which extended into the Mediterranean and would have enabled militants to enter from a Hamas military post in the northern Gaza Strip to escape into the sea unnoticed.