Two Israeli ministers said another war in Gaza is on Israel’s horizon on Tuesday, following a tense day of IDF air and tank strikes in response to a rocket attack from the Strip on Monday morning, but the army stressed it had no interest in further conflict on the southern front.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday that a war was “a matter of when, not if.”
“In Gaza, they are continuing to threaten us and try to harm us,” Bennett said at a ceremony in southern Israel commemorating the death of an Israeli student killed by Hamas rocket fire in 2005.
“Only with a total victory over our enemy will we put an end to this,” Bennett added.
In a Tuesday morning interview on Army Radio, Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a former general, also said there was a chance of escalation and conflict with the Hamas terrorist group later this year.
“The [current] reality, in my assessment, might lead to a situation in which Hamas is drawn to escalation in the spring or the summer,” said Galant, a former head of the army’s Southern Command.
Galant’s predictions have not always been accurate. In April 2016, in another Army Radio interview, the minister predicted a war in Gaza that summer as well, but no such conflict occurred.
In response to the IDF strikes, the Hamas terrorist group said Monday it holds Israel “fully” responsible for any fallout or escalation in hostilities between the two sides.
The army said its strikes were in response not only to Monday’s rocket attack and gunfire, but also to “other incidents from Gaza in the last month.” This was a reference to smaller-scale incidents that have occurred along the security fence surrounding the Strip.
In recent months, the IDF — under the direction of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman — has adopted a harsher policy toward the sporadic rocket fire.
The hawkish Liberman has promised that Israel will respond aggressively to rocket attacks in order to force Hamas to rein in the more extreme groups in the Gaza Strip.