Friday, June 22, 2018

Is 'Large-Scale Military Operation' By Israel Into Gaza Imminent?

Israeli minister hints at 'large-scale military operation' in Gaza

IDF assess that Hamas is working to push clashes as close to
Israel’s “red line” as possible

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Thursday that Israel may
 be forced to launch a “large-scale military operation” in the Gaza
 Strip in response to continued launching of burning kites into Israel.

“I don’t want to launch an operation, but there is a good chance
 that we will have no other option but to go in so that we can create
 durable deterrence,” he said on Army Radio.

Erdan also remarked that anyone launching burning kites into
 Israel should be treated like a terrorist and shot regardless of age.
 “Age doesn’t matter, they’re terrorists and the danger they create
 must be prevented,” he said.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is also a member of the current
 security cabinet, said on Army Radio that “there is no difference
 between a burning kite and a Qassam rocket, and we should not
 tolerate the kites.”

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) assess that Hamas is working to push
 clashes as close to Israel’s “red line” as possible without a clear 
understanding of Israel’s breaking point.

A military source told Haaretz that Hamas is attempting to act
 within self-imposed boundaries by launching rockets only at
 night and only toward smaller communities close to the border.
 Though the incendiary kites and balloons have caused thousands
 of dollars in damages, their launch rate has been relatively low
 and sporadic.

Erdan supported IDF assessments saying, “Hamas is incorrectly
 assessing when our limit will be reached. If we continue to respond
 in the way we have been, they will have to stop, because Hamas
 doesn’t want to [get to a point] of confrontation that will [spell] its end 
in the Gaza Strip.”

Following an exchange of rockets and retaliatory strikes Wednesday,
 IDF spokesman Jonathon Conricus said, "The Hamas terror
 organization targeted Israeli civilians throughout the night with a
 severe rocket attack, and is dragging the Gaza Strip and its civilians
 down a continually deteriorating path," the army said in a statement.

"Hamas is responsible for everything that transpires in the Gaza Strip
 and will bear the consequences for deliberately targeting its terror at 
Israeli civilians," it added.

Hamas countered by blaming Israel for heightened violence, saying 
it had "changed the rules of engagement" by targeting positions in
 response to kite and balloon arson attacks.

45 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, which quickly retaliates

Tensions along one of the Middle East’s volatile borders continued to escalate this week, with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip firing rockets and the Israeli military unleashing aerial assaults, while incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza ignited yet more fires in Israeli territory.
No casualties were reported in Israel, according to army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, who told journalists that, while one home was directly hit by a rocket, “the vast majority” of the 200,000 Israelis living in bordering communities spent the night in bomb shelters. Gazan authorities said two people were lightly wounded by the Israeli strikes.
Over the course of the night, Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted seven of 45 rockets, the military said.

At least five projectiles fell within Israeli communities, two landing near a community center and one next to a kindergarten where children later arrived for the last day of the school year, officials said. The kindergarten, “the second to be struck by mortars launched from Gaza in the past two weeks, has a reinforced ceiling,” Conricus said.
In response, Israeli fighter jets hit 25 targets belonging to Hamas, the militia that governs the Palestinian territory.
The night-long salvo followed two Israeli air force strikes against infrastructure belonging to Hamas on Tuesday. One of the targets, the Israeli military revealed on its Twitter feed, was a previously unreported Hamas “underground training compound.”
The Israeli strikes came in response to an ongoing wave of burning balloons and kites being launched from Gaza into Israel.

On Tuesday, Israeli authorities battled more than 20 “arson fires,” as Conricus called them, that were set by the balloons and kites.
More fires broke out Wednesday. At least twice Israeli aircraft “fired shots near a group of Palestinians who were launching arson balloons from the southern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” the army said.
Hamas lauded the rocket launches into Israel, calling them “a legitimate right for our resistance," and a rival Gaza-based militia, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, said in a statement that “the time of Israel acting freely in Gaza has come to an end.”
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said, "The message of the bombardment is confirmation that the Palestinian resistance is the one who sets the rules of engagement in its own way."

In a statement announcing its strikes, the Israeli army accused Hamas of targeting Israeli civilians and said the organization “is dragging the Gaza Strip and its civilians down a continually deteriorating path. Hamas is responsible for everything that transpires in the Gaza Strip and will bear the consequences for deliberately targeting its terror at Israeli civilians.”
The escalating clashes are causing political reverberations in Israel. On Monday, Atty. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit said flaming devices launched at Israel from Gaza were a “legitimate military target,” but refrained from addressing the legality of firing at those behind the launches.

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