IDF commander warns of growing anarchy in Gaza

Kassam rocket explodes in Eshkol causing damage to home; Barak says Iron Drome anti-rocket system to be deployed within days.

Rocket damage in house 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
Rocket damage in house 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
The head of the IDF’s Southern Command warned of growing anarchy in the Gaza Strip on Saturday as rockets continued to slam into Israel over the weekend, one of them scoring a direct hit on a home in the western Negev.
The home in the Eshkol area was badly damaged, but none of the family members sleeping inside early Saturday morning was harmed. The attack came as their eldest son and his partner came to visit for a family celebration.
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A total of four rockets were fired at southern Israel from Gaza over the weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo visited the house that was hit by a rocket on Friday night and said that Hamas was encountering difficulty in reining in other terrorist groups – like Islamic Jihad – and preventing them from firing rockets into Israel.
“There is anarchy right now on the other side and Hamas is having difficulty getting the situation back to the way it was,” Russo said. “There is anarchy within Gaza and within Hamas. There is no control.”
Asked whether he thought the situation could escalate into another war, Russo replied: “We are prepared for any possibility, the goal is we won’t in the end permit a situation where it is impossible for civilians to live here.”
Russo added: “The other side is showing a shortness of memory and I hope they come to their senses.”
While a large-scale operation in Gaza is under consideration if the escalation in hostilities continues, it is not the military’s first preference and there are still other steps that can be taken before embarking on an operation like Operation Cast Lead.
One option under consideration is to resume targeted killings of terror chiefs in Gaza – believed to be a step that could deter terror groups from continuing to attack Israel.
On Friday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak toured the Gaza border and spoke about his decision to authorize the deployment of the Iron Dome counterrocket defense system in the South to defend against Palestinian rocket fire.
Barak said that the Iron Dome was an “extraordinary invention” by Israeli defense company Rafael but he cautioned that it did not provide hermetic protection from terrorist rocket fire.
The defense minister also praised the IDF’s operations in the southern region.
“The IDF is doing a very good job – very professional and creative, with [good] results, along the border and in the Gaza Strip itself,” he said.
“Terror organizations in the Strip took a hard hit during the last 10 days,” Barak said, adding that the groups had lost fighters during that period.
“We do not intend to allow terrorist organizations to renew the situation and break the status quo,” he said. “We will act as is required to return the operations back to the [border] line itself.”
Hamas said on Saturday that Gazan groups had agreed to halt their rocket fire at Israel if the latter stops launching strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan said after a meeting with faction heads over a surge in cross-border tensions with Israel, that the terror groups were “committed as long as the occupation [Israel] was committed” to restore a de facto cease-fire.
Meanwhile, schools in southern Israel are expected to reopen on Sunday after some had been closed since Wednesday, television stations reported on Saturday night.
Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.