As rockets continued to rain down Friday on southern Israel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman criticized the government for considering a ceasefire with Hamas, and said striking hard at the Gaza based terror group must be a top priority.
“The idea that ‘quiet will be answered with quiet’ is a serious mistake,” Liberman said during a visit to Sderot.
“It cannot be that after the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers and two consecutive weeks of rocket attacks, Israel’s approach is still ‘quiet is answered with quiet.’ We oppose the ceasefire because there cannot be an agreement with Hamas. Ignoring the problem or being afraid to deal with it will lead us to a situation in which thousands of missiles are fired at us, not hundreds.”
“We cannot to accept a situation in which Hamas controls the pace of events and dictates when it flares up the region, and all we do is respond,” he added.
On Friday morning Egyptian and Palestinian sources confirmed to The Times of Israel that a ceasefire was set to be declared between Israel and Hamas, but the exact timing has yet to be agreed. The truce was mediated by Egyptian intelligence officials, as has been the case in similar negotiations in the past.
Despite talk of an imminent ceasefire, four rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel Friday afternoon, with three apparently targeting the towns of Ofakim and Netivot southeast of Sderot, as Gaza terrorists increased the range of their attacks. One of the rockets hit a kibbutz in the Eshkol Region, causing some damage to a house. Two others were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system and one hit an open field. No injuries were reported in the attacks.
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who also visited Sderot on Friday, said Israel will only achieve calm on its borders if it responds forcefully to attacks perpetrated against it.
“You have to teach Hamas a lesson in order to restore calm to the communities and residents of the South,” he said.
“Throughout the years, we have achieved significant periods of silence after Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups were struck hard [by the IDF],” Sa’ar said.
Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yellin also urged the government to take action against Hamas.
“Since talks of a ceasefire began, six rockets exploded in the Eshkol Regional Council,” he said. “Restraint is a significant tool to show Israel’s strength, but restraint has its limits.”
“I call on the security cabinet to stop the fire, not just with headlines, but in action, because even residents of the Eshkol Regional Council deserve a peaceful Shabbat,” Yellin added.
Israel on Thursday reportedly issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Hamas in Gaza to halt the incessant fire or face a massive Israeli strike. The ultimatum was conveyed to Hamas leaders via Egyptian intelligence, they said.
An hour before the Thursday evening rocket barrage, Hamas said that in the event of an escalation, Israel would “be surprised” by its rocket arsenal and range.
“We promise that one stupid move your leaders make will constitute sufficient ground to turn all of your towns, even those you wouldn’t expect, into targets and burning cinders,” said Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing. Israel may initiate the escalation, “but it doesn’t know how it will continue and how it will end,” he said.
“The threats the occupiers issue, and the allusions to war against Gaza, are threats that have no meaning in our dictionaries, other than drawing the hour of vengeance and difficult lesson-learning closer,” Ubaida added.