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Ex-Shin Bet chief: Israel must ease Gaza’s financial plight

Yaakov Peri says while Hamas does not currently want confrontation, the Jewish state would benefit from giving Gazans hope for future

Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)
Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

A former director of the Shin Bet security service urged Israel on Saturday to take steps to alleviate the economic problems in the Gaza Strip, alongside military measures to counter efforts by the Hamas terror group that rules the coastal enclave to build attack tunnels into Israel.

“Israel would do well if, in addition to the operational activities against the tunnels, it worked to alleviate the economic situation and show the residents of Gaza the prospect of an easier and more comfortable future,” said Yaakov Peri, an MK for Yesh Atid and member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Walla news website reported.

Israel and Hamas have been exchanging fire across the border since for days, as the terror group tries to thwart IDF troops from seeking out the tunnels it has dug from Gaza into Israeli territory.

“Hamas, for its own reasons, is not interested in entering into another confrontation with Israel at this stage,” Peri said, hours after Israeli warplanes struck Hamas targets in southern Gaza following rocket fire on Israeli communities bordering the Strip.

“The dire economic situation in the Gaza Strip also makes it difficult for Hamas to initiate another conflict,” the former security chief added.

An Israeli soldier atop his tank on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on May 6, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
An Israeli soldier atop his tank on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on May 6, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

Peri’s message appears to contradict that of senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, who last month argued that Gaza’s economic woes are ultimately irrelevant to the current security situation.

Speaking at an April conference on the financial state in the beleaguered coastal Strip, the director of the ministry’s Political-Military Affairs Bureau dismissed an assertion that economic development could be the solution to Gaza’s problems and mitigate the security threats to Israel that emanate from the territory.

Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that the group is not interested in an escalation of tensions, but warned that it will not tolerate Israeli troops entering the Palestinian territory.

His comments came a day after Jerusalem announced that IDF troops had located a cross-border tunnel built by Hamas into Israeli territory, the second such discovery in recent weeks.

Israel and Hamas last went to war in the summer of 2014, in a devastating 50-day conflict that saw the IDF lay waste to large swathes of the Gaza Strip and Hamas fire hundreds of rockets at Israeli population centers.

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