Israel not seeking escalation in Gaza Strip, says defense minister

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says Israel is not seeking an escalation in violence in the Gaza Strip, but will not tolerate rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

“We have no intention to initiate a military campaign in Gaza but we also have no intention of being on the receiving end of sporadic fire,” he says at the weekly Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting in the Knesset. “I recommend that Hamas take responsibility and calm down.”

Liberman, who during the 2014 Gaza war fiercely criticized the government response to Hamas rocket fire, says all the recent criticism about the government’s conduct during the 50-day conflict stems solely from political concerns and is harming Israel’s security.

He speaks a day before the state comptroller report on the government’s handling of the war effort is set to be published. According to leaks of the report, it is a damning indictment of the prime minister and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, as well as the army’s top echelon, accusing Israeli leaders of failing to update the high-level security cabinet about the extent of the tunnel threat from Gaza.

Talk about the report “is a political discourse that does not contribute to security and even the opposite — it harms Israel’s security,” the defense minister says.

“The IDF and defense establishment have been dealing with drawing lessons and rectifying what needs fixing from the day after the campaign. We have a strong army and the readiness of the army and reservists is at one of the highest levels in decades,” he says.

Liberman declines to comment on the content of the report until after the embargo is lifted tomorrow.

— Marissa Newman

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