Israel to discuss easing restrictions on Gaza if lull in arson attacks continues
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Israel to discuss easing restrictions on Gaza if lull in arson attacks continues

Defense minister to meet with security chiefs on possibility of lifting restrictions on goods entering Strip, expanding fishing zone

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (2nd-L) meet with top IDF generals and Israeli security officials at the military's Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on August 9, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (2nd-L) meet with top IDF generals and Israeli security officials at the military's Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv on August 9, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman will meet with senior members of the Israeli security establishment on Tuesday to discuss easing restrictions on the Gaza Strip following a decrease in Palestinian violence, a senior defense official said Monday evening.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said reopening the Kerem Shalom crossing will be considered during the 12:00 p.m. meeting, as well as returning the permitted fishing zone to six nautical miles from the current three, if the calm continues on the border.

Additionally, further economic incentives will be considered in the coming days if there is no renewal of violence, specifically the launching of incendiary airborne devices from Gaza toward Israeli territory. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

There has been a significant drop this week in arson attacks from the Palestinian enclave.

On Sunday evening, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services said that Sunday marked the first day in several months that no fires were caused by incendiary balloons flown from Gaza toward Israeli communities bordering the coastal enclave. However, he later said it appeared that at least one fire was started by the the arson devices.

The Fire and Rescue Services said one fire was started on Monday in Israeli territory by an incendiary balloon. However, the security source disputed that the blaze was started by arson.

Senior Israel officials maintain the country has not agreed to the ceasefire which Hamas announced late Thursday and said went into effect at midnight. Hamas, a terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, claims the deal was mediated by Egypt and other regional players.

A plume of smoke rises from the remains of a building west of Gaza City that was targeted by the Israeli Air Force in response to a rocket attack that hit southern Israel earlier in the day on August 9, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

The apparent truce came after two days of spiraling violence that saw the heaviest exchanges of fire between Israel and the Gaza terrorist organization since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. During the flareup, Hamas fired over 150 rockets and mortars into southern Israel which responded with about the same number of air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.

Senior Israeli officials have said that “quiet will be met by quiet,” implying that the country is not seeking an escalation of violence, but has not openly committed to an end to hostilities. Instead, military officials hope the terror group has internalized the damage Israel can cause to its infrastructure.

People stand next to a car that was damaged after a rocket fired by terrorists from the Gaza Strip fell in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on August 9, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Despite the apparent truce and reprieve in rocket fire, violence has continued on the border, and Israeli tanks struck two Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip Friday evening after a grenade was hurled at troops and amid intense violence during mass riots in several locations along the border.

Around 9,000 Palestinians participated Friday in violent weekly border protests. Some protesters rioted near the fence, threw makeshift bombs, Molotov cocktails and rocks at Israeli soldiers, and burned tires to create a smokescreen. In one incident, a grenade was thrown at Israeli troops, but caused no casualties. Several attempts were made to breach the security fence.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said three Palestinians were killed in Friday’s violence.

Since March, there have been near-weekly, violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, leading to escalations involving rockets fire on Israel and reprisal air strikes.

The deadly border clashes have seen Israeli security forces facing gunfire, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and efforts — sometimes successful — to damage or penetrate the border fence. Last month, an Israeli soldier was killed by a sniper. According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, over 150 Palestinian haves been killed in the violence. Hamas has admitted that many of the fatalities were its members or those belonging to other Gaza terror groups.

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