Defense officials on Sunday told the security cabinet that it does not believe a large-scale conflict in the Gaza Strip is necessary, following assertions by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman that Israel is preparing to step up action against Hamas.
Nevertheless, the IDF understands that there is pressure from politicians to do something and that events at the border fence are escalating, which is why there will be a situation assessment before Friday, when thousands of demonstrators are once again expected at the border. The Southern Command is preparing for soldiers to respond more forcefully at the border and will set clearer boundaries for those who approach the fence. It’s possible that the no-entry area near the border will be enlarged or that more care will be taken to prevent breaches of the type that occurred this past Friday.
The IDF has not altered its decision to try to avoid being dragged into a military confrontation before the end of 2019, when the fence and underground barrier that will neutralize the attack tunnels is completed.
A senior defense official addressed the possibility that the politicians would order a military confrontation in Gaza, and argued that the conditions in Gaza would make it difficult for Israel to fight without being barraged by international criticism.
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The official added that even during military operations, the IDF makes sure that the Gazan population has basic items and that the aid organizations and health system can absorb the wounded and those forced to flee the battle zones. Now, the official said, the Gaza health system is on the verge of collapse and aid groups can barely help those in need, which means that fighting now in Gaza would lead to a serious humanitarian crisis there, limiting Israel’s room to maneuver vis a vis the international community.
Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot left for a conference of military commanders in the United States, where he is expected to attend working meetings mainly on the situation in Syria, which in Eisenkot’s view is still the most important arena and should receive the military’s main attention, even at the expense of specific events in Gaza. As far as Eisenkot is concerned, the north must be the focus in terms of training, resources and alertness.
In Gaza, intelligence officials say they’ve identified a different trend from that presented by the politicians and some of the media. The intelligence assessment is that Gaza residents are actually resentful of Hamas’ conduct and the fact that until now it hasn’t managed to realize any achievements from the weekly demonstrations. The assessment is that Hamas understands the situation, which is why the process of trying to seek an arrangement should be pursued to bring calm to the area.
Defense sources, meanwhile, expressed surprise at Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s conditioning the resumption of fuel deliveries on total quiet. These sources say that his remark puts both Israel and Hamas in a position from which it will be difficult to actually achieve an agreement. Defense officials say fuel deliveries will have to resume in a few days in any case to allow Gazans basic living conditions, which is why a compromise will be sought through mediators that won’t make either side look as if it had caved in.
In any case, the IDF understands that there is pressure from the politicians to do something and that events at the border fence are escalating, which is why there will be a situation assessment before Friday, when thousands of demonstrators are once again expected at the border. The Southern Command is preparing for soldiers to respond more forcefully at the border and will set clearer boundaries for those who approach the fence. It’s possible that the no-entry area near the border will be enlarged or that more care will be taken to prevent breaches of the type that occurred this past Friday.
On Sunday the air force attacked a group of Palestinians who were launching booby-trapped balloons. One of them was lightly wounded.