Netanyahu: Decision on Whether Gaza Remains Quiet Belongs to Gaza

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the graduation ceremony for a pilot training course, December 27, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the graduation ceremony for a pilot training course, December 27, 2017.Credit: Haim Zach/GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision as to whether there will be quiet in the Gaza Strip “depends first of all on Gaza.” Netanyahu spoke at the graduation ceremony for the Israel Air Force’s newest class of pilots at the Hatzerim Airbase in the Negev on Wednesday.

“We will not allow and not accept any escalation on the part of Hamas or any other terrorist group against Israel. We will use all the means [available] to defend our sovereignty and the safety of Israeli citizens,” added Netanyahu.

The prime minister said that the Air Force has both defensive and offensive capabilities, with enormous firepower that can reach short distances as well as distant targets as needed. “We will not allow Iranian military forces to base themselves in Syria to attack us, and will act to prevent the manufacture of deadly precision weapons aimed at us,” he said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also attended the ceremony, which marked the conclusion of the prestigious three-year pilot training course. In his speech Lieberman commented on the possibility of a military conflict in the north, saying if such a confrontation does break out, Israel will use “much more impressive” force than what it used in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

At the end of October Israel destroyed an attack tunnel extending from Gaza into Israeli territory, near Kibbutz Kisufim; 12 militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad were killed. Since then, Islamic Jihad has been trying to carry out a revenge attack in Israel, but due to internal struggles and the reconciliation process between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, the group has had a difficult time carrying out a large-scale attack from inside the Strip. It concentrated on carrying out such an attack from the West Bank, but when that proved to be unsuccessful, the group responded with firing mortar shells at Israeli army outposts near Gaza.

But after U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier this month, Hamas allowed extremist Salafi organizations in the enclave to fire rockets at Israel while at the same time making great efforts to execute a major terrorist attack inside Israel from the West Bank.

At the same time, the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria is extending its control in the southern part of the country near the border with Israel, with the aid of the Russian air force and the soldiers of Shi’ite militias under Iranian control.

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