Gabbay slams Netanyahu for failure to halt Gaza rocket fire

Gabbay slams Netanyahu for failure to halt Gaza rocket fire

Comments come a day after 3 rockets fired into Israel apparently target a ceremony honoring IDF soldier killed in 2014, whose remains are held by Hamas

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay (2nd L) and former defense minister Amir Peretz (2nd R) tour the Gaza border region on December 26, 2017 (Courtesy/Zionist Union)
Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay (2nd L) and former defense minister Amir Peretz (2nd R) tour the Gaza border region on December 26, 2017 (Courtesy/Zionist Union)

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay on Saturday slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his handling of the sporadic rocket fire in recent weeks from the Gaza Strip, saying Netanyahu was silent of the issue because it represents a failure of the government to deal with the problem.

“For three weeks they have been firing rockets from Gaza and the prime minister is silent,” said Gabbay, speaking at a cultural event in the central town of Shoham.

“Why? Because it is a failure, and the prime minister is a good campaigner who does not want to be connected to failure,” he said.

Gabbay has in recent weeks called on Netanyahu to take stronger action on Gaza, accusing him of “being weak.”

However, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, a fierce Netanyahu critic, urged caution, saying the next round of conflict with Hamas should be delayed as long as possible.

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon speaks during a rally against corruption in government, at Zion Square in Jerusalem, on December 23, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90

“As long as we can create a decent security situation, we need to do so,” he said, speaking at a similar event at Kibbutz Yagur. “As long as Hamas is dealing with them, we need to let them continue to do so,” he said.

According to Israeli assessments, the rockets are not being launched by the terror group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, but by other terrorist organizations there. However, analysts have noted that Hamas has been either unwilling or unable to clamp down on the groups, as it has in the past.

Protesting US President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, has called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.

This month saw two weeks of near-daily rocket launches, the largest incidence of missile-fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. These daily attacks had recently seemed to have come to an end.

The comments came a day after terrorists in Gaza fired three rockets into Israel that appear to deliberately coincide with a ceremony marking what would have been the 24th birthday of an IDF soldier who was killed in 2014, and whose remains are held by Hamas.

A military official could not yet say that this was definitively the case, as the army was still investigating the issue, but said it “absolutely could be,” noting the uncommon timing of the attack.

In general, terrorist groups fire their rockets under the cover of darkness, rather than in broad daylight, as in Friday’s launches.

Three rockets were fired at the Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Hanegev regions of southern Israel on Friday afternoon. Two of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while the third struck near a building in a community in the area, causing damage.

באמצע טקס לציון יום הולדת 24 לאורון שאול ז״ל ״צבע אדום״. לאחר מכן אמרתי על הבמה שהיינו חייבים להמשיך בטקס. בשביל אורון

Posted by ‎חיים ילין – Haim Jelin‎ on Friday, 29 December 2017

The military censor did not allow the exact location of the strike to be published, as it could assist terrorist groups in fine-tuning their targeting for future attacks.

The launches were also directed toward the area where the ceremony was being held, at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, overlooking the place where Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul was killed in the 2014 Gaza war.

Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose death in Gaza on July 20, 2014 was formally confirmed by the IDF on July 25, 2014 (Photo credit: Courtesy)

The time and location of the event were publicized ahead of time.

Yesh Atid MK Haim Jelin, a former head of a regional council just outside Gaza who was at the ceremony, filmed the event for a Facebook Live video. The ceremony was attended by dozens of people, including a number of politicians, Gabbay among them.

The barrage came just after a musical performance, setting off loudspeakers in the area, which blared, “Code Red. Code Red,” the term for an incoming rocket attack.

Zehava Shaul, whose son Oron’s remains are being held by the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza, is led away from a ceremony in his honor after rockets are launched at Israel from the coastal enclave on December 29, 2017. (Screen capture)

Far from bomb shelters, Jelin and the other members of the audience took cover on the grass, lying on the ground with their hands over their heads.

In the video, Oron Shaul’s clearly distraught mother Zehava could be seen being escorted away.

The loud blasts of the rockets being intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system could be heard in the video, though they could not be seen because of heavy cloud cover.

In a statement,  Gabbay, who attended the event, said he was “filled with pride” that the ceremony went forward despite the attack.

Shortly after the rocket barrage, the Israel Defense Forces retaliated by attacking two Hamas positions with tank shelling and strikes from aircraft.

The rocket attack was the first such incident since December 18.

Police said one rocket that wasn’t shot down by the Iron Dome system was found outside a building that had sustained damaged from the impact. There were no reports of casualties.

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