Israeli General Reveals Wartime Contingency to Evacuate Gaza Border Residents

The plan would temporarily remove Israeli civilians from rocket fire range in the event of another round of fighting, the head of Southern Command says.

A man looks at cars destroyed by mortar fire in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, on the Gaza border with Israel, during the 2014 conflict.
AP

Southern Command chief Eyal Zamir said Wednesday that in the event of another war in Gaza, a plan is in place to temporarily evacuate Israelis from the Gaza border area and distance them from Hamas rocket fire.

The mayor of Sderot, Alon Davidi, objected to the plan. “I feel that evacuating civilians is not the right step and that talk of such fears doesn’t exactly help morale,” he said.

“In the operations to come we will not agree to evacuate Sderot. We are strong enough to withstand the threats of terrorism.”

Southern Command head General Eyal Zamir at the conference in Sderot on April 20, 2016.
Ilan Assayag

Zamir was speaking at a conference on the threat of tunnels being dug beneath the Gaza frontier; the meeting was sponsored by a radio station in the south and the Sderot municipality.

Reports this week on the Israel Defense Forces’ discovery of a Hamas tunnel reaching into Israel has sparked concerns that another round of fighting in the area may be near.

“We are in control of the tunnel’s channel; the tunnel didn’t surprise us,” Zamir said.

“The period since Protective Edge has been the quietest the South has seen,” he added, referring to the summer 2014 war against Hamas and its allies in Gaza.

Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party reiterated his view that Israel should try to oust Hamas.

“The Israeli government has made Qatar a central player in Israel’s talks with Hamas. What we should be doing is setting up a television, radio and Internet station to broadcast to the Strip and expose the truth about Hamas,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman said he thought steps should be taken to raise the standard of living in Gaza to “reduce the motivation of civilians to join Hamas – Hamas which steals its citizens’ money and construction resources.”

Meretz leader Zehava Galon said “Gaza will not disappear even though there are people who would like that to happen."

“We can blame Hamas as much as we want and justifiably. But it isn’t Hamas that asked for your vote to safeguard your security, but rather Netanyahu,” she said, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.