Israel's Defense Establishment Recommends Easing Gaza Restrictions

Defense establishment tells politicians that preventing social and economic meltdown in Gaza is in Israel’s best interest.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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The defense establishment is recommending that cement and concrete be allowed into the Gaza Strip for repairing the damage - but not for rebuilding Hamas bunkers and tunnels.
The defense establishment is recommending that cement and concrete be allowed into the Gaza Strip for repairing the damage - but not for rebuilding Hamas bunkers and tunnels.Credit: AP
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Israel's defense establishment will recommend to politicians that they show generosity in indirect negotiations with Hamas when discussing the conditions for a permanent cease-fire, in order to forestall renewed hostilities at the end of September. A senior military source has told Haaretz that it is in Israel’s interest to avoid intense social and economic pressure on Gaza. “If we can assist by expanding fishing grounds and easing restrictions on border crossings of people and goods into and from Israel, this will help maintain the quiet,” the source said.

The source said that these steps should be accompanied by effective supervisory mechanisms that will prevent renewed smuggling of military materiel into the Gaza Strip. At present, the temporary cease-fire agreement has no such provisions and Israel independently supervises goods that are moved into Gaza, without international participation.

The defense establishment will demand that specific measures are taken to supervise construction projects financed and managed by international agencies, in order to prevent cement and concrete from being diverted to Hamas for rebuilding its tunnels and bunkers.

Egypt does not intend to fully open its border crossing into Gaza at Rafah. Before Operation Protective Edge it permitted the crossing of 100 to 200 people a day, based on humanitarian considerations, but on some days the crossing was closed. Israel estimates that the numbers will be doubled, but not beyond that. Egypt is unwilling to allow the transfer of goods, as the Palestinians would like to see.

In view of Egypt’s attitude, reconstruction and improvement in the lives of Gaza’s residents depends largely on Israel’s attitude. The defense establishment marked the critical elements essential for Gaza’s economy: the transfer of salaries to 43,000 employees associated with the Hamas government (Israel imposed procedural hardships on this transfer earlier this year), guaranteed fishing rights, easing of restrictions on the transfer of goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing and people through the Erez crossing, and implementation of massive reconstruction projects to repair the extensive damage caused by the hostilities.

Updated estimates by Military Intelligence are that Hamas has fewer than 3,000 rockets left, including 100 with a range of over 40 kilometers. Only very few longer-range rockets remain. Locally produced long-range rockets caused little damage. During the fighting, Hamas fired 4,500 rockets. Another 3,000-3,500 rockets were destroyed by the IDF. Thirty-two attack tunnels were destroyed during the operation.

The IDF continues to search for additional tunnels on the Gaza side, using intelligence methods. The Military Intelligence assessment is that if Hamas had additional cross-border tunnels these would have been used for an attack before the cease-fire set in, as retaliation for the assassination of some of its military commanders toward the end of the war.

To date, the IDF has identified with certainty 600 of the 2,100 casualties in Gaza as members of terrorist organizations. The final numbers are expected to be larger, but there is no proof yet that 1,000 were killed, as stated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference last week.

Despite the extensive damage wrought by the war in Gaza, Military Intelligence sees no indications of an incipient popular rebellion brewing against Hamas rule. During the last week of fighting, Hamas publicly executed over 20 people accused of collaborating with Israel. Some of these had dared to publicly criticize Hamas during the war.

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