Netanyahu Pushes Back Against Critics: Israel Won't Allow Flaming Kites From Gaza to Continue

Key coalition partner opposes cease-fire 'dictated by Hamas' ■ Defense chief: Hamas took a hard hit

File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting, July 2018.
Ohad Zwigenberg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas from right-wing criticism on Sunday, saying Israel will not allow incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza to continue. "We hit Hamas in a significant way and hard. Our policy is clear: Whoever hurts us, we will hit them with great strength."

Netanyahu added: "The IDF dealt Hamas the harshest blow since Operation Protective Edge. I hope that they got the message; if not, they will get it later.."

Earlier on Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel will not sit idly by while Hamas launched "rockets, kites, unmanned drones or anything."

"Hamas took a hard hit," he said. "Attack tunnels were destroyed, armaments manufacturing and storage sites were destroyed. As far as Israel is concerned, 90 percent of the rockets either fell in open areas or were intercepted by Iron Dome systems."

To really understand Israel and the Palestinians - subscribe to Haaretz

Education Minister and head of Habayit Hayehudi party Naftali Bennett criticized the cease-fire on Sunday, saying  it was "dictated by Hamas" at a time of their choosing. "For three months we have witnessed fire terror of a thousand explosive and incendiary balloons against the communities near Gaza." According to Bennett, "a cease-fire without cessation of terror is not deterrence, it's surrender."

The UN secretary-general’s envoy to the region, Nickolay Mladenov, arrived at the Erez crossing to meet with Hamas officials following Saturday night's cease-fire.

Israel's government had accepted earlier in the night cease-fire terms that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have agreed to along with a third party, including a decision to stop Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. A senior official in the security establishment has clarified that "only facts on the field will determine how we continue to respond."

Egyptian intelligence officials and Mladenov spent most of Saturday on the phone to both sides to achieve a cease-fire. Egypt is pressuring Hamas to stop the missiles, saying that if they persist, Israel’s response could be fierce and lead to a general deterioration.