Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would continue to use force against terrorists who target its citizens. “The IDF is taking strong action against those who are attacking us and it will take even stronger action if need be. Our policy is to use force in order to restore security and quiet to the residents of the south,” said Netanyahu at the start of the Cabinet meeting Sunday morning.
Sunday saw a semblance of calm return to the south of Israel, after a week in which 150 rockets were fired into the country from Gaza. A fragile Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas appeared to be taking hold, as no IDF activity was reported since the last barrage of rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system at around 10 p.m. Saturday evening.
Two mortar shells were fired from Gaza overnight and landed in an open field near the border causing no injuries or damage.
Schools in the south opened as usual Sunday morning.
The army also approved the opening of Road 12 to Eilat after closing it off to traffic last week following the terror attack near Kadesh Barnea.
In an address to the Jewish Agency’s assembly in Jerusalem, President Shimon Peres said “Israel has the ability to end the Kassam barrages from Gaza and will indeed do so.”
“Israel has left Gaza completely. There is not a single Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip. If they [Hamas] think they can bomb us and we’ll say ‘how nice’ they are wrong,” said Peres. “They must understand that firing on us, will lead to fire on Gaza. Israel has repeatedly shown restraint, but they mustn’t think that they can fire on us and we will sit quietly like victims…. If they don’t pull the trigger, no child will suffer in Gaza.”
“The equation of quiet in exchange for quiet is proving itself so far,” said Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilani in an interview to Army Radio Sunday morning, referring to the principles of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.
“In any case we are watching things in Gaza very closely and are prepared for any development there,” he added.
Vilnai reiterated Israel’s position that it is not interested in escalating the situation in the south, but would respond “appropriately” to any eventuality.
“Hamas is operating against Israel, but they also face considerable opposition from rival organizations within the Strip,” said Vilnai. “There is a very complex system of forces there. The IDF understands this and is following [the situation] closely.”
Israeli security chiefs held a series of emergency consultations on Saturday — including a meeting of defense chiefs with Defense Minister Ehud Barak — and decided to try to avoid a further escalation of hostilities. Amid reports from Gaza Saturday night that Hamas was now seeking a ceasefire, security sources said, “Quiet will be met with quiet, but further rocket fire will be met with further fire [from Israel].”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also involved in the consultations.
The sources said Israel had no interest in a major military response to the upsurge in rocket fire, given the current sensitivities in the region including the tension surrounding Egypt’s elections, the ongoing violence in Syria and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Israel this week.
The majority of the rockets launched Saturday were aimed at the southern city of Sderot, but several landed in other parts of the Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon and Shaar Hanegev Regional Councils, which border the Strip.
One of the rockets exploded in Sderot’s industrial zone, causing moderate-to-severe injuries to one man and damaging a factory.
Another rocket caused damage to a school in Sderot, but there were no reports of injuries. The school had been reinforced against rocket fire.
Several area residents were treated for shock.