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Gantz indicates Hamas may face harsher Israeli action in response to rockets

Defense minister says Israel to ‘show civil and economic generosity’ to Gaza only if security stability maintained; Erez Crossing to remain closed for Palestinian workers Monday

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is seen during a meeting at the IDF Southern Command base in Beersheba, alongside military chief Aviv Kohavi (left), and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar (right), among other officials, April 24, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz is seen during a meeting at the IDF Southern Command base in Beersheba, alongside military chief Aviv Kohavi (left), and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar (right), among other officials, April 24, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz indicated on Sunday that the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group may face harsher Israeli action in response to rocket fire at Israel, following a series of attacks on the south over the past week.

“We will continue to show civil and economic generosity only if security stability is maintained,” Gantz said following a meeting with top military officials at the IDF’s Southern Command, a day after announcing the closure of the Gaza Strip’s sole pedestrian crossing with Israel.

The move came following renewed rocket fire on the south on Friday night and overnight Saturday. The closure of the Erez Crossing was renewed for Monday as well, security officials confirmed to the Times of Israel on Sunday evening.

The number of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who can work in Israel was raised to 12,000 last month, and the government said it would raise it by an additional 8,000, to a total of 20,000.

“Terror organizations and perpetrators of incitement must remember: It is those whose economic, civilian, and military situation is unstable who will be severely harmed by any unrest,” Gantz said according to a statement from his office.

Recent rocket attacks on southern Israel have been blamed on Hamas rival Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But it is largely believed that Hamas has enough of a stronghold in the coastal enclave that no rival group would fire at Israel without the ruling group’s tacit approval, at the very least. “The responsibility for [the rocket fire] lies with Hamas,” Gantz said.

Palestinian workers are seen at the Erez Crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, on March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

“Israel has the ability, and will continue to use the power and various means at its disposal, in the way that it sees fit,” Gantz added, after some local officials lashed out at the lack of military response to the recent rocket attacks.

Gantz also spoke on recent clashes at Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. “Ramadan is supposed to be a holiday of prayer and family gathering. Unfortunately, there are those who hold stones and Molotov cocktails in their hands, instead of holy books.”

Earlier, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid placed blame for the violence squarely upon Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whom he said send activists onto the Temple Mount in order to incite violence that demands a police response.

Palestinians, including one waving a Hamas flag, clash with Israeli police at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups have repeatedly invoked the flashpoint holy site as a red line. Police actions to quell riots there last year were among the triggers of an 11-day war in Gaza last May.

The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by both Israel and Egypt for 15 years in an attempt to contain the enclave’s Hamas rulers and other groups. Israel says the tight restrictions on goods and people are necessary due to efforts by Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, to massively arm itself for attacks against the Jewish state.

Critics lament the blockade’s impact on ordinary Gazans, around 50 percent of whom are unemployed, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The sky-high poverty rates make employment in Israel a highly attractive option for those lucky enough to receive permits.

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