Likud’s Sa’ar joins opposition in lambasting ceasefire deal with Hamas
Smotrich: IDF should have killed hundreds in Gaza

Likud’s Sa’ar joins opposition in lambasting ceasefire deal with Hamas

Netanyahu faces criticism not only from his political rivals but also from his likely coalition partners and, in a rare instance, from within his own party

Senior Likud party member Gideon Sa'ar is seen during a campaign stop at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market, on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Senior Likud party member Gideon Sa'ar is seen during a campaign stop at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market, on April 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Opposition leaders were joined Monday morning by a senior member of the ruling Likud party in criticizing an apparent ceasefire between Israel and Gaza terror groups that ended two days of intense fighting.

In the first time he has broken ranks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since returning to politics earlier this year, Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar said the terms of the agreement hold little to no benefit for Israel and will not prevent future violence.

“The circumstances in which the ceasefire was reached are very lacking for Israel,” Sa’ar posted on Twitter, in a very rare implicit criticism of Netanyahu from within his own party.

The apparent ceasefire, whose terms were not immediately clear, came after several hours of quiet and after a previous reported truce was punctured by rocket fire and airstrikes. The Israeli government refused to confirm the reported truce, apparently so as to avoid publicly acknowledging its negotiations with terrorist groups. However, the military announced that, as of 7 a.m., it was lifting all security restrictions that had been in place in the south during the fighting, and that schools would be allowed to open, indicating that a ceasefire had indeed been reached.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Likud candidate Gideon Sa’ar as he arrives for a Likud faction meeting at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on March 11, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The time in between rounds of violence targeting Israel and its citizens is decreasing, while terrorist groups in Gaza are getting stronger,” Sa’ar said. “A [military] campaign was not prevented, but postponed.”

In the lead-up to the Likud primary election Netanyahu launched a frontal assault on Sa’ar’s candidacy, accusing him in a video of plotting to replace him. The two have since made their peace — at least publicly — shaking hands in front of cameras at a party event shortly after the primary. Monday’s comments were met with sources close to the prime minister telling Hebrew media that Sa’ar was again “trying to take Netanyahu down” by siding with his critics.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz on Monday said the rocket onslaught from the Gaza Strip over the past two days was the result of Israel’s loss of deterrence against Palestinian terrorist groups, and the ceasefire deal would not bring long-term calm.

The former IDF chief of staff, who is expected to become opposition leader, said that Israel had capitulated to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups in order to end the violent flareup.

“Nearly 700 projectiles were launched at Israeli territory, four were killed and many are wounded,” Gantz said in a statement. “All of this is the result of losing our deterrence, and it’s ending with another surrender to blackmail from Hamas and other terrorist groups.

“All the government has done is, once again, lead us to the next confrontation,” he charged.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz gives an impromptu press conference in a bomb shelter at Yad Mordechai as rockets fly overhead on May 5, 2019. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

Over two days, in response to the rocket fire from Gaza, the Israeli military conducted hundreds of strikes from the air and land, including one highly unusual targeted killing of a terrorist operative who the IDF said funneled money from Iran to terror groups in the Strip.

Palestinian medical officials reported 29 dead since Friday, including at least 11 terrorists, The Times of Israel confirmed.

Blue and White’s No. 2, Yair Lapid, on Monday castigated Netanyahu for his “total surrender” to Hamas by tacitly approving a ceasefire agreement with terrorist groups in Gaza.

“Netanyahu used the residents of the south as a flak jacket on his way to total surrender to Hamas,” Lapid tweeted. “Netanyahu will not solve the problem in Gaza. He doesn’t have the operational or political courage to do so.

“The minimum he has to do is explain to the people of Israel what’s going on, and he doesn’t even have the courage to do that,” he said.

MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks during a demonstration outside Jerusalem’s Old City, calling for Jews to be allowed to pray there, on July 25, 2015. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich, chair of the National Union faction within the Union of Right-Wing Parties, criticized the government for not inflicting more damage on the Gaza Strip and saying that the IDF should have killed hundreds while carrying out retaliatory airstrikes in the Strip.

“The fighting in Gaza should have ended with seven hundred dead terrorists (one for every missile fired at Israel) and extensive physical damage to Hamas — so that it will take them years to recover and even think about attacking again,” Smotrich said in statement.

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay welcomed the apparent ceasefire but also criticized Netanyahu’s handling of the violent escalation in the Strip.

“After 20 years of Netanyahu strengthening Hamas — releasing [late Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad] Yassin, the [Gilad] Shalit prisoner exchange and the Qatari money — this year he has also decided to strengthen Islamic Jihad, who are participating in the Cairo negotiations as if they’re an equal partner,” Gabbay said in a post on Twitter and Facebook.

Though he welcomed news of the reported ceasefire, Gabbay warned that “without a long-term political solution, the next escalation is only a matter of time.”

As of Sunday evening, in addition to the four dead, at least 10 Israelis were injured by shrapnel from rockets, missiles and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

An apartment building hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, on May 5, 2019. (Noam Rivkin Fenton/Flash90)

Fifty-eight year-old father of four Moshe Agadi was the first fatality after being rushed to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center with shrapnel wounds he sustained when the rocket hit his home in the city at around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

In a barrage aimed at the same southern city later in the day, a rocket directly hit a factory, killing Zaid al-Hamamdeh, a 47-year-old father of seven, and injuring two others.

A short while later, a third man, Moshe Feder, 60, was fatally wounded when an anti-tank guided missile slammed into his car as he was driving along the Route 34 highway near the community of Kibbutz Erez, just north of the Gaza border. He sustained a serious shrapnel wound to the leg, causing significant blood loss. Feder was pronounced dead at Barzilai Medical Center after CPR efforts failed. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Sunday evening, a fourth man was killed after being struck by rocket shrapnel while running for cover in the southern city of Ashdod, medics said. Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, 21, was survived by his wife and son. He was laid to rest in Jerusalem.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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