Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz on Sunday said Hamas in the Gaza Strip no longer fears Israel, and promised that if his centrist party is elected to lead the country in the September vote, he will launch a military campaign to defeat the terrorist group.
“Deterrence has not been eroded; it has been erased. Our military will defeat Hamas. We will bring quiet to these residents and we will not allow this situation to carry over into Judea and Samaria [the West Bank],” said Gantz on a tour of southern communities bordering the volatile enclave.
The comments by the former IDF chief of staff came hours after the IDF said it thwarted an attempted infiltration from Gaza by armed men and after three rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave at Israel overnight.
Gantz, who hopes to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the September 17 elections, vowed that a Blue and White-led government would take a more forceful approach to dealing with Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel and is the de facto ruler of Gaza.
Gantz was IDF chief of staff under Netanyahu’s leadership during Israel’s last major military foray into the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014.
The Israel Defense Forces said early on Sunday that its soldiers had spotted a group of armed Palestinian suspects near the fence overnight. The military said that an attack helicopter and a tank fired at the suspects, but did not provide details on casualties.
Later in the day, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said three Palestinians were killed by the Israeli fire.
The suspected infiltration attempt came as violence between Israel and Gaza has ramped up considerably in the last three weeks.
Earlier on Saturday night, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired three rockets at southern Israel, two of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the military said. Fragments from one of the Gaza rockets struck the yard of a home in the town of Sderot, causing damage but no injuries. On Friday night, terrorists in the Strip fired at least one rocket into Israel, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the IDF said. There were no reports of injury or damage. In response, the Israeli military struck two underground sites belonging to Hamas.
Over the past 17 months, Palestinians have staged regular marches on the Gaza border known collectively as the Great March of Return.
Recent weeks have seen several serious infiltration attempts into Israel. In a span of 10 days, six armed Palestinian terrorists — many of them current and former Hamas members — got through the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip before being killed by Israeli troops. In one case on August 1, the gunman opened fire at IDF soldiers, injuring three of them, before he was shot dead.
Last Saturday, a group of four heavily armed terrorists, carrying assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and rations, attempted to infiltrate Israeli territory before they were spotted and shot dead by troops on the border.
The Hamas terror group has ruled Gaza since seizing control of it from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in a 2007 bloody coup. It has since fought three wars with Israel and fired thousands of rockets at its cities.