Israel is operating toward Gaza in accordance with the reality on the ground, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday, as reports continued to surface about an emerging cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.“We are operating unilaterally in accordance with the reality on the ground, and apparently this is how it will continue,” Liberman said while on a visit to an IDF military exercise in the North.“I hear numerous remarks and stories about Israel’s agreement with Hamas, and I repeat: We are indeed talking with the Egyptians, with the UN and with international players.But as far as I am concerned, there is only one agreement and that is the reality on the ground – and if anyone wants some formal agreement, a precondition is an arrangement on the captives.”According to Liberman, while there has recently been a dramatic drop in terrorist incidents along the Gaza border, it is nonetheless “impossible to completely prevent” all attacks, especially those committed by lone Palestinians who don’t belong to any group.
“There is no doubt that there is a decline, but that is not enough – so all we do and what is really important, is to create an absolute connection between the security calm [in the South] and economic benefits” for Gazans, he said.Since July, Israel has linked the closing of its two crossings into the Strip, at Kerem Shalom and Erez, with the cessation of Palestinian violence in the coastal enclave.On Saturday evening, Israel closed the Erez crossing except for humanitarian cases in response to the continuing violent demonstrations every Friday along the Gaza border fence. “In the end, we need to understand that looking 12 years into the future, what we eventually want to see is security and calm,” Liberman said. “That’s why we also need to understand that economic stability also guarantees security and calm.”Another round of fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas two weeks ago, when more than 200 rockets and mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip toward communities in southern Israel within a 24 hour period, precipitating 150 retaliatory strikes by Israeli jets.While there has been relative calm on Israel’s southern border since then, IDF troops on Monday exchanged fire with a Palestinian who opened fire at them from the northern Gaza Strip. No soldiers were hurt in the incident.“The shooting incident yesterday was apparently a single person who is not affiliated with any group,” Liberman said. He added that balloons launched into southern Israel on Monday “were only balloons” and were not incendiary aerial devices that caused any fires.Gazans have been protesting along the border with Israel since March 30 as part of what organizers have called the “Great March of Return.” Demonstrators have been throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and rocks toward Israeli troops and flying incendiary kites, condoms and balloon into Israeli territory, destroying more than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of forest, nature reserves and agricultural fields.In several incidents, falcons and other birds were found dead in southern Israel with incendiary devices attached to them.
Israel lets food, goods back into Gaza as Egypt pushes truce, August 15, 2018 (Reuters)