IDF intel chief warns despair in Gaza could explode toward Israel

Herzl Halevi says economy must be strengthened to avoid new conflict, agrees with UN report that Strip could be uninhabitable by 2020

File: Israeli Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi in Jerusalem on November 2, 2015. (Flash90)
File: Israeli Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi in Jerusalem on November 2, 2015. (Flash90)

The Gaza Strip’s worsening humanitarian situation could lead to a conflagration with Israel, the Israeli military’s intelligence chief warned Tuesday.

IDF Military Intelligence chief Herzl Halevi told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: “The humanitarian condition in Gaza is progressively deteriorating, and if it blows up, it’ll be in Israel’s direction.”

Halevi said the reconstruction of Gaza following 2014’s war between Hamas and Israel was moving very slowly. The Strip’s rehabilitation, he said, was a key factor in preventing further conflict.

He agreed with a 2015 UN report that said Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020 if its economy is not quickly strengthened. That report placed much of the blame for the situation on Israel’s blockade on the enclave.

He noted that despite the difficult situation in Gaza, Hamas continues to be uninterested in war with Israel at this time, and is making efforts to control other factions in the territory to prevent them from heating up the border.

Halevi told lawmakers that economic improvement in Gaza would also help stabilize tensions in the West Bank.

The intel chief also commented on the status of the Palestinian Authority. He expressed doubt in Palestinian threats to dismantle the PA in light of stalled peace talks with Israel. But he said such a scenario could unfold if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas leaves power without there being a viable replacement.

On Sunday it was reported that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has met several times with his Palestinian counterpart Shukri Bishara in recent weeks to hammer out a plan for boosting economic assistance to the Palestinians..

Kahlon is now slated to bring a raft of new initiatives to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for approval in the coming days, Channel 10 reported.

The proposal focuses on both knowledge-intensive industries such as healthcare and high-tech, as well as expanding Israeli-Palestinian economic integration in the construction sector.

It is seen in Israel as key to lowering tensions in recent months amid the collapse of peace talks and a wave of Palestinian terror attacks since October.


AFP contributed to this report.


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