Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he holds Hamas responsible for any attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip but will not divulge his plans for dealing with the situation, after 10 rockets were launched from the coastal enclave over the weekend, one of which hit a home in the southern town of Sderot.
“We must understand that we hold Hamas accountable for any attack that comes out of the Gaza Strip. I’m not going to detail our plans here,” the prime minister said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “We will continue to work in all arenas for the security of the State of Israel, both by visible and covert means, by sea, air and land.”
The prime minister also addressed other threats, saying: “We are in a very sensitive and explosive security period in a number of arenas in the east, north and south.” Netanyahu did not offer any further explanation of his statement.
In addition, the prime minister said that attacks on IDF soldiers in the West Bank or anywhere else will not be tolerated, hours after a Border Police armored vehicle was pelted with rocks at the entrance to the Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank in the latest in a series of clashes between hardline settlers in the area and IDF security forces.
“We will not tolerate stone-throwing or any other attack on IDF soldiers who do their job, fulfill their duty and protect us all in the West Bank and everywhere else in the country,” Netanyahu said.
On Friday night, 10 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, one of which struck a home in the southern city of Sderot. The rockets set off warning sirens in Sderot and other communities in Israel’s south as many families were gathering for Shabbat dinner.
Israel responded with airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza, which reportedly killed one Palestinian and wounded two others.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the rocket fire, but Israel routinely holds Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible for any violence emanating from the Strip.
An unnamed senior Hamas figure told Haaretz that the rocket launches were carried out without Hamas’s approval and were not the work of one of the major Palestinian factions. Quoting Palestinian sources, Israel’s Channel 13 news also reported that Hamas distanced itself from the rocket fire and told Egyptian mediators it was probing who was responsible.
Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, held a discussion over the weekend with security chiefs to prepare a response, and the security cabinet was set to convene later on Sunday to discuss the latest developments.
But despite the prevailing assessment within the the military that the latest escalation is over, it is taking no risks and has changed the deployment of the Iron Dome air defense system as well as other troops in preparation for more rockets at a longer range, Hebrew-language media reported Saturday night and Sunday.
There have been repeated bouts of violence between Hamas and Israel over the past year as the Islamists have sought to improve on the terms of a UN- and Egyptian-brokered truce first hammered out in November last year.
In return for Hamas silencing the rockets, Israel agreed to a package of measures to ease the crippling blockade it has imposed on Gaza — together with Egypt — for more than a decade, since Hamas, which openly seeks Israel’s destruction, took over the territory in a bloody coup. Israel maintains the blockade is necessary to prevent arms from entering Gaza that could be used to attack the Jewish state.
The measure included allowing in millions of dollars in aid from Hamas ally Qatar to pay for fuel for the territory’s sole power station and cash for salaries and grants to tens of thousands of needy families.
The truce has also seen Israel expand the distance it allows Gaza fishermen out into the Mediterranean — although it reduces it or even cuts it to zero in response to violence from the enclave.
The concessions authorized by Netanyahu have been criticized by his opponents, including by prime minister-designate Benny Gantz.
Adam Rasgon and AFP contributed to this report.