Netanyahu chides world over silence after Gaza rockets

Despite statement from secretary general last week, prime minister says UN hasn’t opened its mouth; Iron Dome deployed near Rehovot

Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 31, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 31, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the international community Sunday for failing to come to Israel’s defense during a spate of Gazan rocket fire over the last several days, seemingly ignoring a UN statement condemning the fire last week.

Netanyahu said Israel blamed Hamas for the rocket fire despite the fact that smaller Salafist groups in the Gaza Strip had claimed responsibility for it, and noted the lack of international condemnation over the attacks.

“I didn’t hear anybody in the international community condemn the fire, and the United Nations didn’t open its mouth,” Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting. “I’m interested if the silence will continue even when we exercise with our full strength our right to defend ourselves.”

“The hypocrisy that has spread across the world won’t tie our hands from defending Israeli citizens,” he added.

In fact, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did condemn a rocket attack last week, calling on “all parties to avoid further escalation and prevent incidents that jeopardize the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians,” according to a statement from his spokesperson.

On Saturday night, a rocket was launched from Gaza, hitting an open area south of Asheklon. The fire followed a similar attack on Wednesday night, in which two rockets were fired at the Ashkelon and Netivot areas.

Following both attacks, Israeli planes bombed “terrorist infrastructure” in Gaza, the army said, without elaborating.

Both rocket attacks were claimed by the Omar Brigades, a small Salafist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror organization.

A week earlier, a Grad rocket was shot into Israel, landing near the town of Gan Yavneh, some 40 kilometers from the Strip. That rocket was attributed to internal fighting within the Islamic Jihad terror group.

None of the rockets caused any injuries or damage.

Israel and Hamas, the de facto rulers of Gaza, have maintained a tense ceasefire since ending a 50-day war over the summer. However, the uptick in rocket fire over the last weeks has raised tensions in Israel, with some calling for a more forceful Israeli response.

On Saturday, MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid), a former head of a regional council bordering Gaza, called for an emergency meeting to discuss a response to the rocket fire.

On Friday, the IDF deployed at least two Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in southern Israel, two days after three rockets were launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Army officials cleared for publication on Sunday the report that one of the Iron Dome batteries was deployed in the Rehovot area, some 45 kilometers (27 miles) from Gaza.

In addition to the battery deployed in Rehovot, Iron Dome batteries are deployed in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Netivot.

Israeli military sources said they were concerned that the Islamic State-linked group was again threatening to target Israel because of its internal Gaza dispute with Hamas, which has arrested several of its members.

A high-ranking member of the group told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds that the purpose of the rocket fire was not to start another war with Israel, but to bring about the release of Salafist prisoners being held by Hamas, the Hebrew-language news site Walla reported.

In response to the rocket fire, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings closed, except for humanitarian cases.

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