'Israel Might Have No Choice but to Launch a Large-scale Military Operation in Gaza,' Minister Says

Security cabinet member Gilad Erdan calls to shoot at burning kite launchers: 'They're terrorists, their age doesn't matter'

Palestinian protesters fly a kite with a burning rag dangling from its tail during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, April 20, 2018.
Khalil Hamra/AP

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Thursday that Israel might be forced to launch a "large-scale military operation" in the Gaza Strip.

"I don't want to launch an operation, but there is a good chance that we will have no other option but to go in so that we can create durable deterrence," he told Army Radio.

Erdan added that those launching burning kites from Gaza should be shot regardless of their age: "age doesn’t matter, they're terrorists and the danger they create must be prevented." Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also a member of the security cabinet, told Army Radio that "there is no difference between a burning kits and a Qassam rocket, and we should not tolerate the kites."

>> Read more: The next Gaza war is staring Israel in the face

The Israel Defense Forces admitted Wednesday it did not correctly estimate the effect the burning kites would have and the damages they would cause to Israeli border communities near the Gaza Strip. However, the IDF General Staff and Southern Command decided not to take out the kite launchers for fear of hurting uninvolved civilians and leading to further escalation.

According to IDF assessments, Hamas is trying to drag the current escalation in the Strip up until Israel's "red line", without correctly anticipating Israel's boiling point. The army said that the recent Gaza rocket fire crossed a line that cannot be ignored, and more substantial attacks are possible.

Sources in the military believe, however, that Hamas is intentionally choosing to launch rockets only during the night, only towards small communities on the Gaza border and not large cities and to send a relatively low number of burning kites and balloons, in order to abide by boundaries they have set for themselves.

In response, Erdan said: "Hamas is incorrectly assessing when our limit will be reached. If we continue to respond in the way we have been, they will have to stop, because Hamas doesn't want to get [to a point] of confrontation that will [spell] its end in the Gaza Strip."