IDF soldiers stand atop a tank near the border with Gaza. [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The security cabinet directed the IDF on Wednesday to continue to forcefully hit Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and to complete the neutralization of the terrorist tunnels, a senior diplomatic official said.
According to the official, speaking after a four-hour security cabinet meeting, the IDF operation has led to “significant achievements on the ground” and was hitting at the “strategic apparatus” that Hamas has invested in for years.
The security cabinet said it would continue to declare limited humanitarian cease-fires, similar to the four-hour one on Wednesday
, in areas where there is no fighting and without endangering soldiers or compromising the efforts to destroy the tunnels. The idea behind these lulls in the fighting is to provide the civilians in Gaza with the possibility to stock up on basic necessities, he said.
The official said that no cease-fire proposal that meets Israel’s demands has been brought to the security cabinet for a decision.
The security cabinet decision to continue the operation, and expand it where necessary to hit the terrorist infrastructure, was reportedly taken unanimously.
The security cabinet met during the four-hour humanitarian cease-fire Israel declared in areas of fighting.
Hamas did not honor the ceasefire.
Even as the official indicated that a cease-fire was not imminent, AFP reported airport officials as saying that an Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo to discuss the situation.
And Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a TV interview on Tuesday night that Hamas authorized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate on its behalf, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Meanwhile, amid very public disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem over a potential cease-fire, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at the daily press briefing in Washington that Israel supported the US efforts at brokering a truce.
Harf said that the US believed Qatar and Turkey had a role to play in the cease-fire contacts, and that US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke three times on Wednesday with the Qatari foreign minister.
Israeli attacks against Kerry’s role in attempting to bring about a cease-fire are “offensive and absurd,” Harf said. The United States had been giving Israel “a level of support which has been quite frankly unprecedented in our history, even when we stood alone,” she added.
Before the security cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Yair Lapid – who is a member of the eight-person forum – said that Muhammad Deif, the commander of Hamas’s military wing, was a “marked man.”
Lapid said that Deif’s comments the day before, claiming victory for Hamas, were reminiscent of Iraqi propaganda on the eve of the fall of Saddam Hussein.
“For years, Muhammad Deif has been hiding in the tunnels beneath Gaza, and that is where he will remain, because he is a marked man,” Lapid said. “He knows that sooner or later we will find him and kill him.”
Deif, whom Israel has tried to kill at least four times in the past, was heard in a recording Tuesday saying that Hamas was “winning the war,” and saying that there would be no ceasefire until Israel “lifted the siege” of Gaza.
On the contrary, Lapid said, “Hamas has been bruised and battered, and it is scared, and it is losing this campaign thanks to the heroism and determination of the IDF and its soldiers.”
The finance minister said that the IDF has so far hit 4,000 terrorist targets, hundreds of terrorists, destroyed a large part of Hamas’s infrastructure and the vast majority of the terrorist tunnels.
Another member of the security cabinet, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, told a group of visiting German parliamentarians, who are in the country to show their support, that a “battle of civilizations” is taking place in the Middle East, and that the events in Gaza are just part of a wider struggle taking place in Libya, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
This struggle, he said, is the greatest challenge facing the world since World War II, and Europe “should be committed to Israel.”Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.