Bennett Says Israel Will Act When It Chooses, a Day After First Gaza Rockets Since May Fired

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Naftali Bennett meets with soldiers who operate the Iron Dome missile defense system, Tuesday.
Naftali Bennett meets with soldiers who operate the Iron Dome missile defense system, Tuesday.Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday that Israel will "act at the time, place and circumstances that suit us, and no one else," a day after rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel for the first time since the latest round of hostilities in May.

Unusually, Israel had not retaliated for the rockets by striking Hamas targets in Gaza over 24 hours after they were fired.

In a statement following a meeting with top defense officials, Bennett said that Israel continues to hold Hamas responsible for actions taken in Gaza: "Not rebels or anyone else, but Hamas."

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said after the meeting: "We will reserve the right to act with force, in a place and time of our choosing, and we will do it the right away." He added that Israel was happy to provide assistance to the people of Gaza, via Qatari aid and other initiatives, "provided that we know the money will reach the right places."

A Hamas source said Monday that the organization denied responsibility for the attack and said it was an attempt to disrupt the talks over the entry of Qatari aid into Gaza.

The London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Araby al-Jadid meanwhile cited Egyptian officials as saying that Cairo had opened direct lines of communications with Gaza and Jerusalem to calm the situation. According to the report, the Egyptians rapidly sought to invite Israeli representatives to talks in Cairo to this end. 

The newspaper cited an Egyptian source as saying that Cairo had warned Israel that if it did not accept the invitation, Egypt would have a hard time preventing cooperation between Hamas and Islamic Jihad on one side and Iran and Hezbollah on the other. The Egyptians told Israel that just days ago, senior officials from the two Palestinian groups, including the head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, and Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah met with Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and senior members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The Egyptians reportedly asked leaders of Palestinian organizations to avoid actions that could lead to an escalation, and told Israel to relax the blockade of Gaza and avoid steps that could increase tensions, such as evicting Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.

It was also reported that officials in Cairo have been trying to expedite the transfer of Qatari financial assistance to needy families in Gaza and are supporting a mechanism that has been agreed upon in principle between Qatar and the United Nations.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Sunday that the group believes the Qatari assistance will end up reaching Gaza, but that Hamas will not hesitate to escalate the security situation with Israel if Qatari cash and construction supplies are not transferred to the Strip within a few days.

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