Senior IDF commander: Hamas is playing with fire

Outgoing IDF OC Southern Command: Israel seeks calm, but those who test us will find us ready.

Changing-of-the-guard ceremony to welcome the new OC Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Changing-of-the-guard ceremony to welcome the new OC Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Hamas is playing with fire in its attempt to exploit current unrest in east Jerusalem, and could get burnt, outgoing OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman said on Wednesday.
Speaking during a ceremony at Southern Command headquarters in Beersheba to mark the end of his tenure, Turgeman said, “Recent days have been sensitive and carry a negative potential. Hamas failed in curbing its impulses, and rode on the wave of the eruption in east Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria. It made tactical gains, but it is playing with fire that could spread uncontrollably to the [Gaza] Strip.”
Israel seeks “quiet, calm, and restraint, as it has done throughout the period following last year’s 50-day conflict with Gaza,” Turgeman said.
How can Israel put an end to this wave of terror?
“We do not seek an escalation. But let us not be confused. Those who test us will find forces that are alert, prepared, and filled with fighting spirit among soldiers and commanders.”
The IDF has deployed two reinforcement battalions to the Gaza border, to deal with disturbances along the security fence there.
During the ceremony, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said that past days have shown “once again the security challenges faced by the state of Israel.
They also underline the fact that alongside deterrence gained after Operation Protective Edge, terrorist organizations in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria continue to try and harm our civilians, disrupt their routine, and spread fear on the Israeli home front.”
The IDF is working with “determination, professionalism, and the use of focused power” to prevent a further deterioration of the security situation, Eisenkot said.
Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, who is taking charge of the Southern Command, said in his address, “Our struggle is long and ongoing, and so is our willingness to sacrifice for our national and just goals.”
On Tuesday, a group of around 30 Palestinians from Gaza breached the border fence in the southern part of the Strip and crossed a short distance into Israel. IDF units arrived on the scene rapidly and contained the rioters, surrounding them and pushing them back into Gaza, using crowd dispersal means.
Earlier that day, on the border with the northern Strip near the Erez crossing, some 300 Palestinians threw rocks and rolled burning tires at IDF soldiers. The army responded by firing tear gas canisters.
Gazans have been breaching the border fence for the past several days.
On Monday, IDF units surrounded a Gazan rioters who breached the border with Israel, fired tear gas and pushed them back into the Strip, an army spokeswoman said.
Also on Monday, the Southern Command shifted its policy toward containing Palestinian riots near the Gaza border fence, to avoid the use of live fire, after rioting and attempted mass infiltration earlier this week left nine Gazans dead from IDF fire.
A military source said that while there has been no change in the rules of engagement, commanders have ordered ground units to focus on firing tear gas and warning shots to disperse protesters who approach the Gaza border fence.