Netanyahu is ready to work with outside actors to avoid a new Gaza war

Report says IDF killed Palestinian man at southern maritime border, fourth death in 24 hours.

By
October 29, 2018 19:13
Iron Dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets are launched from Gaza

Iron Dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel as seen from the city of Ashkelon, Israel October 27, 2018. Picture taken with long exposure. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Israel is working to prevent incursions and attacks from the Gaza Strip, while at the same time trying to restore the quiet there by ensuring that a humanitarian crisis does not develop, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

In a briefing with reporters, Netanyahu said that to prevent a humanitarian crisis, Israel is willing to work with international actors, a reference to Egypt, the UN and Qatar.

A senior diplomatic source said that Netanyahu is willing to exhaust diplomatic efforts – and not launch a war or major military action – to try to return the situation to what existed prior to Hamas’s actions at the Gaza fence, which began in March.

Israel was on the cusp of reaching an agreement to restore the quiet over the weekend, but this had been torpedoed following Islamic Jihad’s launching of rockets toward Israel, the source said.

The source said that Netanyahu believes that the “tipping point” is approaching in Gaza, regarding whether there will be quiet or an escalation. But before that point is reached, the diplomatic process to bring about quiet is continuing. This, he said, includes allowing Qatari-funded fuel into Gaza and allowing salary payments for Hamas.

Netanyahu, according to the official, has said there must be a goal for any major military campaign in Gaza, and that while it is possible to occupy Gaza and replace Hamas, volunteers are not standing in line to take responsibility for the Gaza Strip.

He said that if there were someone responsible to hand it over to, Israel possibly might have already occupied Gaza.

Short of re-occupying the Gaza Strip, the source said, the other option is to hit Gaza hard to attain long-term quiet. The source said that it is also clear that when Israel hits at Gaza, there will be a response, something that could send many people in the country to the shelters.

For that reason, the source said, Netanyahu prefers reaching quiet through contacts with Egypt, Qatar and the UN, despite the potential political price. Netanyahu is aware of the short-lived praise and relentless criticism he would receive if he were to enter Gaza, according to the source.

At the Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting in the Knesset, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman continued to advocate for a military solution, as he explained that the security cabinet had tied his hands.

According to Israel law, the security cabinet, not the defense minister or the prime minister, makes the final decision, Liberman said.

“Any [military] action that may lead to a broad campaign is a cabinet decision,” he said. “I admit that the majority in the cabinet do not think as I do. I thought that we would deliver a [harsh] blow a few months ago.”

The IDF has presented all its operative plans to the cabinet in detail, both orally and in writing, he said. Liberman had made such a presentation already in December 2016.

Liberman made a snipe at Education Minister Naftali Bennett, when he said that “I volunteer to buy glasses and a hearing aid to anyone who says the cabinet was not presented with those plans and goals.”

Liberman told his faction he believed eventually the cabinet would have to go with his plan for Gaza and give him everything he wanted “on a silver platter.”

“There is no path to an agreement with Hamas,” he said. “We will not restore quiet and calm to the South without dealing the most severe blow we can.”

Liberman said he saw the residents from the South protest the government’s inaction and he believes they are 100% correct.

“The story has gone on for seven months,” he said. “We tried all the options, and the fact is that last Friday, Gaza border residents endured 43 rockets and red alerts, and this clearly cannot go on.”

Liberman said Israel would not accept Hamas’s demand of economic benefits, like Qatari gas while they continue their violence. He said he opposed a ground invasion.

“We have enough ways to restore quiet and calm without a ground invasion,” he said. “In my opinion, even if we kill 40,000 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, it is not worth losing one Israeli life.”

Bennett, who is also a security cabinet member said in response, “Harta-Barta. Since he became defense minister, our deterrence against Gaza has collapsed. If you don’t know how to do the job, give it up.”

BORDER RESIDENTS on Monday morning demonstrated at the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing into Gaza, demanding a harsher response to the violence.

On Monday, the Palestine New Agency reported that an IDF sniper killed Mohammed Abdul-Hai Abu Abada, 27, near Gaza’s maritime barrier, making it the fourth IDF-related Palestinian death in the last 24 hours.

The IDF refused to confirm the Palestinian’s death, but said that a violent riot between the army and 3,000 Palestinian participants occurred along Gaza’s maritime border, that included the throwing of stones, burning tires and Molotov cocktails.

On Sunday night, the IDF said its aircraft struck “a squad of three terrorists who tried to sabotage [the Gaza security barrier] and apparently planted an explosive device” near it.

PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said those killed in the strikes were 13-year-olds and identified them as Khaled Bassam Mahmoud Abu Saeed, Abdul Hameed Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abu Zaher and Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullah al-Sutari.

The three were buried in Gaza on Monday. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who eulogized the teens, said “the Zionist enemy (Israel) will never have a place on the political map of the region. All the normalization attempts will never blur the awareness of the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.”

Late Sunday night, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in the Gaza Strip near the homes of Islamic Jihad members and senior Hamas leaders, including Haniyeh’s home. They demanded revenge, insisting that “blood will be answered with blood.”

There was an initial fear that Hamas or the Islamic Jihad would launch rockets against Israel overnight in response to the deaths of the three teens. Just one day earlier, Islamic Jihad declared that a truce had been reached with Israel. No rockets were fired at Israel on Sunday or Monday.

Ashrawi called on the International Criminal Court to take action against Israel. She said, “The Israeli occupation army has been deliberately targeting and killing Palestinian children. This is a clear war crime in violation of international law and international humanitarian law. Israel’s continuous campaign of excessive and indiscriminate violence against the people of Gaza has persisted with impunity and has been emboldened by the US administration’s strategic alliance with Israel.”

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov called on Israel to avoid targeting children in its air strikes.

“My sympathies go out to the families of the 3 #Palestinian children killed yesterday as a result of an #Israeliairstrike in #Gaza. Such tragedies must be avoided at all costs. Children must be protected, not exposed to #violence or put in danger,” Mladenov tweeted.


Reuters and Maariv contributed to this report.


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