Netanyahu Vows: If Gaza Attacks Don't Stop, We Will Put a Stop to Them

PM issues warning after rocket hits house in southern Be'er Sheva ■ Hamas threatens 'immediate and decisive response' to any Israeli strike in the Strip

Home in Be'er Sheva damaged by rocket early on October 17, 2018
\ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel would act forcefully against aggression from the Gaza Strip, as Hamas on its part warned Israel that any strike overnight by Israel in the Strip would trigger "an immediate and decisive response."

Netanyahu's remarks, at a security assessment meeting in the Gaza Division in southern Israel, came after a rocket launched from Gaza hit a house in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva, seriously damaging it. The Israeli military said it struck 20 targets in Gaza in response, including a Hamas attack tunnel in the southern Strip. Other targets included Hamas military bases and a rocket manufacturing site.

The meeting was also attended by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the Shin Bet's chief and several senior defense officials.

"Israel views with great severity the attack against its fence, against the Gaza border communities, on Be'er Sheva – everywhere. I said at the start of the government meeting this week that if these attacks do no desist – we will stop them," Netanyahu said after the meeting adjourned.

"I want to tell you today – Israel will act with great force," Netanyahu vowed.

Netanyahu's comments were made ahead of a security cabinet meeting on the situation in Gaza.

Netanyahu also toured the Gaza Division's situation room and met with the field intelligence soldiers who identified the group that attempted to launch a missile earlier Wednesday, and expressed his appreciation of the work done in the situation room.

After the tour, Netanyahu met with several Gaza border communities' regional council heads in the Sedot Hanegev Regional Council.

A delegation of senior Egyptian intelligence officials left the Strip on Wednesday through the Erez crossing, after arriving on Tuesday. It held meetings with the heads of the Palestinian factions, as well as with Hamas Politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar, the organization's leader in Gaza.

The visit was set in preperation for the arrival of Egyptian intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, to Gaza and Ramallah. However, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk tweeted on Wednesday that he laments the cancellation of Kamel's visit.

At this time it remains unclear whether the cancellation was meant to send a message to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, or is due to Kamel's schedule, as he is accompanying Egyptian President  Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi in his official visit to Russia.

Hours after the Israeli strikes, sources in Gaza reported that an agreement had been reached to reach an understanding with Israel and prevent an escalation.

The assault "significantly damaged Hamas' capabilities," IDF Spokesman Ronen Manelis said. The IDF also struck a group that was attempting to fire a rocket at Israel, later releasing footage of the incident. Manelis said the IDF holds Hamas responsible for the rocket launches. 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad released a joint statement after the flare-up began, distancing themselves from the rocket launches. "We welcome the Egyptian effort to fulfill the Palestinian people's demand to remove the [Israeli] siege, and reject any irresponsible attempts meant to incite and sabotage the effort," the statement said.