Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz asserted Tuesday that the IDF will ultimately have no choice but to reoccupy the Gaza Strip for a limited period of time in order to deter Palestinian terrorist groups from firing rockets into Israeli territory.
During a visit to the southern town of Sderot, Steinitz claimed that the rate at which Gaza terrorist groups were arming themselves was reminiscent of the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, and said that a military operation was required in order to ensure that Israeli civilians in the south remained safe.
“At a certain point we will have to take over the Strip for some limited time in order to halt Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s heavy missiles and long-range rocket armament, which reminds us of Hezbollah’s stockpiling [of rockets] in Lebanon,” he said.
A military takeover of Gaza, he continued, would be carried out in a manner similar to 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield, during which the IDF temporarily took control of Palestinian cities in an attempt to wipe out terrorist strongholds across the West Bank in the wake of a surge in suicide attacks.
Steinitz added that since the Palestinian Authority had failed to effectively govern the Strip and prevent terrorist groups from targeting Israeli civilians and smuggling arms, Israel must “be very careful” before deciding to entrust PA President Mahmoud Abbas with any further security responsibilities.
Steinitz’s statements echoed statement made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who, in response to a massive rocket bombardment of southern Israel last week, said the IDF should reoccupy the Gaza Strip. Liberman noted that the Israeli government must defend its citizens even if it jeopardized peace talks with the Palestinians.
“There is no way to avert a full occupation of the Gaza Strip; only then can we ensure that these images do not recur,” the foreign minister said. “We cannot ignore such an attack, a barrage of 50 rockets and mortar shells.”
Dozens of rockets as well as mortar rounds were fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israeli towns from Wednesday to late Thursday last week. In an initial response hours later, the IDF fired tank shells at what it termed “terror targets” in the Strip. Later it would attack a series of installations in the Strip in a series of airstrikes.
No Israeli casualties were reported in what was the largest attack from the Strip since Operation Pillar of Defense in late 2012.
On Thursday afternoon, Islamic Jihad announced that a truce with Israel — hammered out in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense — had been resumed, and rocket fire tapered out over the weekend.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.