The Israeli security cabinet conducted an emergency meeting late last night, during which Jerusalem’s top decision makers discussed the escalation along the Gaza frontier, after a Palestinian-launched Grad rocket destroyed a residential structure in the southern city of Beersheba. Prior to the meeting and following a situation assessment with the top brass of Israel’s Defense Establishment and Military, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that ‘unless the Palestinians stop attacking Israel, Jerusalem will respond with great force.’ In his words, “I just concluded a situation assessment with the top brass of the IDF and Defense Establishment. Israel views in the upmost severity the attacks against it at the (border) fence, against the Gaza periphery, against Beersheba – everywhere. I said at the opening of this week’s cabinet meeting that if these attacks would not stop – we will stop them. I want to tell you today – Israel will act with great force.”
While a close associate of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told TV7 that the top Israeli Defense official is pushing the security cabinet for a military solution to the Gaza escalation, most of the cabinet members have adopted a more lenient position, which include a series of sanctions against the Hamas-controlled enclave. That said, the commanding officer of the IDF southern command stressed – prior to the cabinet meeting – that the Israeli military was prepared for any scenario and will deal Hamas a heavy blow, if the situation further deteriorates. According to Herzi Halevi, IDF Southern Command Chief, “Hamas pretends to govern in Gaza, and tells the Gazan population that it seeks to improve their lives. However, in reality, Hamas specializes in riots at the border fence and in using explosive devices, incendiary and explosive balloons, and, as we saw last night, rockets. Hamas worsens the lives of ordinary Gazans and last night took actions which forced us to strike a range of weapon production facilities, military compounds and underground infrastructure. Everything that was struck was destroyed. Hamas will find it difficult to raise the funds to restore these facilities. The IDF is ready for any eventuality and will continue to prepare itself for every scenario. We are capable of responding with even greater force.” It is important to note that since yesterday afternoon, a tense calm has been preserved, as the Islamist organization in the Palestinian enclave have actively sought to alleviate the situation from deteriorating into an all-time-war. A Hamas source in Gaza, who asked to remain anonymous, told TV7 that the organization’s leadership is concerned about an Israeli response that would further weaken its grip over the Palestinian enclave. Meanwhile, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported that the organizers of the violent demonstrations along the border fence in Gaza have decided to moderate them in the next few days. Citing a senior Palestinian official, the report claimed that this decision was made to reduce fatalities among demonstrators and to give a chance to Egyptian efforts to relieve the siege on the Gaza Strip.
To the regret of Hamas, however, Chief of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate cancelled his planned trip to Gaza and the West Bank city of Ramallah, in response to the barrage of rockets fired from the Hamas-ruled territory into Israel’s southern communities. The cancellation of the visit is seen as a sign of Cairo’s anger with the Palestinian group, as Egyptian intelligence officials were present in Gaza city during the time of the attack. Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk expressed “regret” over Kamel’s decision to cancel his planned trip, vehemently denying his organization’s responsibility for the grad rocket that struck a residential building in the city of Beersheba.