Israel Wants Calm on Gaza Border, but 'Preparing for Military Operation,' Netanyahu Says

Border community leader walked out of meeting with the premier, saying government ignores the threats they face

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Fires caused by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza blaze in a border community, June 28, 2019.
Fires caused by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza blaze in a border community, June 28, 2019.Credit: \ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday on a visit to the south that the army is preparing for the possibility of a large-scale military campaign in Gaza. “Our policy is clear. We want to return calm, but at the same time, we are preparing for a large-scale military operation, if necessary. These are my orders to the military,” he said.

For their part, the leaders of regional councils in the Gaza border communities walked out of a meeting with the prime minister in protest at what they said was the government’s disregard for the residents living in border communities. The communities have faced rounds of rocket fire as well as violence along the border fence and fires set by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza.

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Netanyahu met on his visit to the south with local leaders from throughout the region, including the Gaza border communities. The head of the Eshkol regional council, Gadi Yarkoni, and head of the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council, Ofir Libstein, left the meeting in protest, claiming that the prime minister did not address the unique issues that their residents near the border with the Gaza Strip face.

“We were surprised to discover that the meeting with prime minister included 20 regional council heads from all over the south and that the prime minister had no intention of having a meeting focused on the concerns of the Gaza border communities, as is expected in days such as these and as we requested,” they stated, adding: “We have deep concern regarding the government’s awareness and understanding of what is happening in our communities.

Netanyahu said in response: “I am sorry that some of the council heads who always say that we don’t listen to them ironically left just when we came to listen to them – but we will do what is necessary for everyone.”

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