IDF Mobilizes Troops to Gaza Front, but Calls for Quiet With Hamas

In rare message to Hamas, Israel says does not seek escalation but ready to respond if necessary.

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A Palestinian looks through a hole near a Hamas training camp following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, July 3, 2014.Credit: AP

Despite the rising tensions on Israel's southern front with the Gaza Strip and the trade in rockets for air strikes, a senior military source on Thursday said Israel prefers to avoid further escalation and is seeking to restore quiet in the region.

"Quiet will be met with quiet," the source said, adding that the military actions undertaken by Israel over recent days were defensive in nature.

If Hamas fails to move to prevent rocket fire on Israel's south, the IDF would not escalate the situation. However, he warned, Israel will be prepared to respond if needed.

The official's remarks follow three security cabinet meetings on the matter over the last few days, which has left ministers split on whether to expand the operation. The officer's message is apparently coordinated with that of the political leadership, and is intended to give Hamas a last chance to avoid further escalation.

The IDF, meanwhile, began mobilizing troops to the south and calling up army reservists on Thursday. Only a limited number of reservists have been summoned so far, the military source said, and the IDF has yet to decide whether to expand the enlistment.

Also Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz held a situation assessment. The security establishment believes that Hamas has increased its role in launching rockets at southern Israel in recent days, but that other factions are also involved in the fire.

"We don't seek escalation, but our job is to prepare for such possibility," the source said.

A house damaged by rocket in Sderot on July 3. Representative of U.S. Jewry came to witness the damage for themselves, and see what they could do to help. Credit: AP