IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned ministers during a cabinet meeting on Sunday that Israel could soon face another war with Gaza-based terror group Hamas, as a result of the deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions in the coastal enclave, according to Israeli television reports.
In his briefing, Eisenkot pointed to the lack of electricity, drinkable water, and food in the Gaza Strip, according to Channel 10.
The IDF chief of staff favored stepping up aid to the enclave, according to Hadashot news.
But Eisenkot was conditioning the full rehabilitation of the Strip on the return of the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in the 2014 war with Hamas and whose remains are being held by the terrorist group, the Hadashot TV report said.
Should the humanitarian crisis continue to spiral, added Eisenkot, Israel is liable to find itself drawn into another round of fighting with Hamas in 2018, Hadashot said.
Israeli security officials are weighing sending food and medicine to the Gaza Strip for the first time, in an effort to prevent the deteriorating conditions from spiraling into violence, Hadashot news reported Saturday.
In a security assessment handed recently to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the defense establishment reiterated its belief that Hamas is not interested in another conflict with Israel. However, an economic collapse would make such a scenario inevitable.
Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, has been under increasing pressure as the coastal enclave teeters on the verge of an economic and infrastructure collapse that UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov last week said was already “well beyond” a humanitarian crisis.
Last month, the US froze over $100 million in contributions to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, after the Palestinians announced they would no longer accept the US as a mediator in peace talks with Israel. The Palestinians were angered after US President Donald Trump on December 6 recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Hamas terror organization and other Gazan groups have warned residents of the Palestinian enclave to prepare for an Israeli incursion, which they claim is set to begin in the coming days, an Arabic-language newspaper reported Sunday.
Citing “reliable Palestinian sources,” the report in London-based al-Hayat said that Palestinian leaders, including Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar predicted Israel will use upcoming joint military maneuvers with US army units in southern Israel as cover for an offensive to stage the attack.
Sinwar and other Palestinian leaders in Gaza put the likelihood of an assault at 95 percent, the London-based Al-Hayat said.
However, Israeli officials dismissed the reports as Hamas vying for international attention for the beleaguered enclave.