Lieberman in the northern Israel, August 2, 2018. Gil Eliyahu

Israeli Defense Minister Stands by Decision to Close Gaza Border Crossing: Israel 'Not Going to Play'

Avigdor Lieberman explains the decision to shutter the Kerem Shalom crossing ■ Defense minister addresses tensions at Syria border, says 'Assad understands what would happen if situation not restored to normal'

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that he stood by his decision to close the Kerem Shalom crossing, which was announced Wednesday.

During a visit to Israeli Patriot missile batteries positioned in the north, the defense minister said that "There was an Egyptian request. We responded to it. Gas and fuel has been banned from entering the Gaza Strip though the crossing. But food and medicine are exempted from that decision until the incendiary kites and balloons have stopped."

"We are not going to play ping pong," Lieberman continued.

"We must emphasize that Gaza doesn't have an alternative to gas. In Rafah, they can bring fuel but not gas," he added.

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Israel's air force defense system, 2018. Gil Eliyahu

The Defense Ministry stated on Wednesday that fuel and gas will be banned from entering the Gaza Strip until further notice, and that the decision was made in light of the "continued airborne firebombs terror" and clashes during the weekly protests on the Gaza-Israel border. 

The defense minister also addressed developments on the northern front, saying that he believed that Israeli civilians could be calm despite reports that Syria President Bashar Assad is reclaiming areas in Syria close to the frontier with Israel. "We are not going to give up our security interests, and I believe that Israelis can be calm because it's also in the interest of Assad."

"Assad understands what would happen if the situation is not restored to normal, and I assume he will make his own calculations," Lieberman continued.

When asked if he thought Hezbollah, the Shi'ite terror group based in Lebanon would also make its presence known in the area, Lieberman said that he "wouldn't rush to draw conclusions. Since the Second Lebanon War we have drawn our conclusions, in the hopes that no one will test us."

While Lieberman spoke about the current challenges facing Israel both in the south and north, the Israeli military announced that it The Israeli army carried out an attack overnight Wednesday against armed "terrorists" in Syria's Golan Heights who were found with explosives, the army said. The Israel Defense Forces said it is on high alert and ready to protect Israeli residents in the northern region. 

Last week, Israel's air defense system failed to intercept two BM-21 rockets fired from the Syrian region, which landed in Lake Kinneret. According to an initial investigation, there was a strong likelihood that ISIS was behind the rocket fire. But it was probably aimed at Syrian forces and not at Israel. 

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