Amid uptick in rockets, Labor chief says Israel losing deterrence in Gaza
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Amid uptick in rockets, Labor chief says Israel losing deterrence in Gaza

Gabbay slams defense minister for expressing 'understanding' for attacks when saying they come from internal Palestinian power struggles

Head of the Zionist Union Avi Gabbay (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Head of the Zionist Union Avi Gabbay (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay said on Saturday that the recent surge in rockets launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip was reducing Israel’s deterrent capability against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

“We are losing our deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas in Gaza,” Gabbay said at a cultural event in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba.

Gabbay criticized Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman for asserting last week that the recent rocket fire was the result of internal Palestinian political spats and not an indication that terrorist groups were no longer afraid of Israel.

“He is a defense minister, not a military analyst,” Gabbay said. “These are dire statements that could be interpreted by the other side as a understanding attitude on our part toward the launches at the south.”

On Thursday, Liberman called on Israelis to “relax,” despite the dramatic increase in the number of rocket attacks from Gaza over the past week.

Speaking from the southern city of Sderot, Liberman said the rocket fire was the result of internal Palestinian political spats and not an indication that terrorist groups were gearing up for another war with Israel.

The reassurance from the ordinarily bellicose defense minister appeared to be a response to growing calls for the Israel Defense Forces to take more aggressive action against terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the rocket attacks.

In the past week, over a dozen rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza. A number of them fell short, five were shot down by the Iron Dome defense system, and six struck Israel, two of them causing damage in the southern town of Sderot.

After more than three years with limited rocket fire from Gaza — 26 rockets were fired in 2015, 20 in 2016, and nine from January to November 2017 — the sudden spike in December has raised concerns that Israel might be headed for another war with terrorist groups in the Strip.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minster’s Office in Jerusalem, December 3, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

The Israel-Gaza tensions have been fed by Washington’s recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Protesting US President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration, terror group Hamas called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.

On Friday, three Palestinians were killed in clashes between Israeli troops in the West Bank and Gaza, as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated for a second week against the shift in US policy regarding Jerusalem. A fourth was fatally shot stabbing an Israeli border police officer near Ramallah.

At the cultural event on Saturday, Gabbay echoed the sentiment of other Israeli lawmakers that Jerusalem should remain under Israeli sovereignty, and not be shared with Palestinians, who seek the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.

“People came to Israel because of Jerusalem,” he said. “We have to restore our control of the capital and create positive motivations to do so. It’s one city.”

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