Gantz: Israel has changed ‘equation of response’ to Gaza, will strike if needed
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Gantz: Israel has changed ‘equation of response’ to Gaza, will strike if needed

Defense minister says Hamas was surprised by ferocity of retaliation to waves of incendiary balloons, realized Israelis were taking matter seriously

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, center, meets with soldiers from the 202nd Battalion of the Paratroopers Brigade on the Gaza border on May 26, 2020. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, center, meets with soldiers from the 202nd Battalion of the Paratroopers Brigade on the Gaza border on May 26, 2020. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday that with a forceful response to waves of incendiary balloons launched at Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip over recent weeks, the military had altered the balance in exchanges of fire with Palestinian territory.

“We changed the equation of response. In Gaza they were surprised and realized that we were taking the ballooin issue seriously, so we attacked as we attacked,” Gantz told Army Radio. “We will continue with both defense and offensive activity as needed.”

“We attacked dozens of targets all over Gaza of varying degrees of importance,” Gantz said.

For nearly all of August, Gaza-based terror groups launched hundreds of explosive and incendiary balloons, as well as rockets, across the border fence with Israel, which responded by conducting nightly airstrikes against Hamas targets and closing the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing with Gaza to fuel and construction materials.

Smoke and flames rise during an Israeli airstrike on the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on August 18, 2020. (SAID KHATIB/AFP)

Amid fears of another round of serious violence, Hamas Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar’s office announced Monday night that the terror group had accepted ceasefire terms with Qatari mediation. Israel tacitly indicated its consent by lifting the restrictions imposed on the Strip since the beginning of the escalation.

However, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya on Tuesday said that if Israel does not fulfill the terms of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas within two months, there could be another round of escalation of violence on the southern border.

Denying that Israel had been forced to give anything away to achieve the agreement, Gantz said that “I will not accept the logic that every time someone wants to achieve something, it is the people of Israel who pay the price.”

“We remember that there are millions of people living there [in Gaza], we remember that they have the danger of the coronavirus, and we say to them, ‘It is not us who are bringing these catastrophes upon you,'” he said.

Gantz also commented on a recent airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel. Though declining to confirm that Israel carried the attack, He said, “We know that in the places that we strike there are people who may be hurt.”

“In most cases we don’t attack with the intention of killing unless there is a specific incident of a cell operating at that moment against us. But we strike to hit infrastructure for Iran’s entrenchment in Syria that in the end will be used against us.

“Regrettably, occasionally there are people hurt, that is part of the business,” Gantz said.

A heightened state of readiness will continue on the northern border, amid fears of retaliation by the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group for the killing of one of its members in a July strike also attributed to Israel, Gantz said.

Those who try to attack Israel “will pay the price,” he vowed. “If there is terror from Syria, Syria will pay for it; if there is terror from Lebanon, Lebanon will pay for it.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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