Netanyahu Hints Israel Likely to Show Restraint After Recent Gaza Flare-up

More than 110 rockets have hit Israel's south since escalation began on Saturday; after Gaza militants announced truce on Monday, two rockets have landed in Israeli territory.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told mayors of southern Israeli cities under rocket attack on Tuesday that it was his reponsibility to choose the right time to "exact the heaviest price" for the continual rocket fire from Gaza.

Following a meeting on Tuesday morning of the prime minister's nine senior ministers on the recent escalation with Gaza, it seems that Israel will show restraint after the latest round of rocket fire, and will try at this point to contain events in the south.

Since the flare-up with Gaza began, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have promised a sharp Israeli response to the rocket fire, although this, if it arrives, will take place only in the next round of escalation.

During the Be'er Sheva meeting with the southern Israeli mayors, Netanyahu said that Israel is not expected to undertake significant military action in Gaza at this stage, or to renew assassinations of Gaza militants.

"I am responsible for us choosing the right time to exact the heaviest price, and so be it," Netanyahu said. "Whoever thinks that they can damage the daily lives of residents of the south, and that they won't pay a heavy price for this – they are mistaken."

During the meeting, Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, and the mayor of Ofakim, Zvi Greengold asked the prime minister to act, and stop the rocket fire.

"I take my hat off to you over the fence on the border with Egypt, and over other actions of the government, but the rocket fire is still continuing," Yalin told Netanyahu. "It is inconceivable that we will continue that way for 12 years, four of which you are prime minister. Either start a military operation or find a diplomatic solution, but decide already and stop the rocket fire."

Meanwhile, Greengold said, "When they fired from the Golan Heights on the communities, they said that we needed to stop the Syrian guns. Now it’s the same thing – stop the fire."

According to one those present at the meeting, Netanyahu did not argue with Yalin or Greengold. "We brought achievements in infrastructure .. and a train to the south, but its true, we have not managed to stop the rockets," Netanyahu said.

Since Monday's reports of the agreement by Palestinian militant groups in Gaza to hold their fire, there has been a period of relative quiet in the Gaza envelope area, with two rockets hitting the Ashdod area and Hof Ashkelon Regional Council area on Tuesday. The first hit at 6:00 A.M., and the second at 16:00 P.M. There were no reports of damage or casualties in either incident.

Militants in Gaza have fired more than 110 rockets towards southern Israel since Saturday, when four soldiers were wounded in an anti-tank missile attack on an IDF jeep, and six Palestinians have been killed in the ensuing IDF strikes on the Gaza Strip in response.

Following a meeting of the IDF's Gaza Division to assess the situation on Tuesday morning, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters: "The incident is still not over. Hamas and the terrorist organizations are taking hard hits as a result of IDF actions, but the matter is definitely not over. We will decide how and when to act when action is needed."

Barak also added that Israeli is not ready, "to accept in any way the damage to the quality of life the citizens on our side of the border, and we intend to reinforce and strengthen the deterrence, so that we can act also in "parameter" along the border fence, and in a way that better ensure the safety of soldiers who work on all sides of the Gaza Strip."

Site of rocket hit at Kibbutz Sha'ar Hanegev.Credit: Eliahu Hershkovitz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with mayors of southern Israeli cities in Be'er Sheva, Nov. 13, 2012.Credit: Moti Milrod
The site where one of the rockets hit in Sha'ar Hanegev on Saturday, November 10, 2012.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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