Day After Gaza Flare-up, Minister Bennett Warns Next Clash With Hamas 'Only a Matter of Time'

'Israel must win’ next round of fighting, says education minister, following army strikes in response to Hamas rockets. Housing Minister Yoav Galant: 'We must prepare for the spring.'

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett during a discussion in the Knesset plenum on the bill to retroactively legalize Israeli settlements, February 7, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday that the next round of fighting with Hamas is only a matter of time, a day after a flare-up between the Israeli army and the militant group in the Gaza Strip. 

Speaking Tuesday in Sderot at a memorial service for Ella Abukassis, who was killed 12 years ago by a Qassam rocket launched by the Islamist organization, he said, “today we are still being threatened by Gaza; they are still trying to hurt us. The threats are increasing, from Lebanon to Gaza. A next round of fighting is a question of when, not if, and this time we must be decisive and win, not end it in a draw, so as not to have another round after that.”

Bennett added that “we will not be the only country in the world where a child can’t walk the street without the risk of a rocket falling on him. Our enemy is devoting all his time and resources to sowing death among us. Instead of building lives they are investing in means of inflicting death. Only a decisive victory over them will bring an end to this.”

Monday, the Israel Defense Forces launched a series of strikes against Hamas positions in Gaza after a rocket was fired earlier in the day into Israel, and also in response to “other events over the last months,” according to the army.

In response, a senior Hamas spokesman warned about "further aggression against Hamas' institutions and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.” A Salafist group took responsibility for firing the rocket, which landed in an open area and did not cause any injuries.

For his part, Israeli Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a former head of the IDF Southern Command, estimated that the next round of fighting with Hamas might take place in the coming months.

“Will this process lead to an escalation? I think we will get into another round,” he said. “I see the coming spring as a time we should prepare for.”

A senior Hamas official, Salah Bardawil, said Tuesday that “Hamas is committed to calming the situation and Israel is trying with its escalation to examine our patience and willingness to absorb.”