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Protesters in south call for stepped-up response to Gaza violence

Head of Eshkol Regional Council says PM must explain to locals his policy to ‘restore a sense of security and guarantee calm in the area’

Residents of southern Israel protest over the government's response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, at the entrance to city of Sderot, on March 26, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Residents of southern Israel protest over the government's response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, at the entrance to city of Sderot, on March 26, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several dozen residents of southern Israel held a protest on Tuesday evening calling for the government to adopt a more forceful response to violence in the Gaza Strip.

As the demonstrators rallied outside the city of Sderot, the army said a rocket was fired from Gaza at the Eshkol Regional Council, threatening to spark fresh fighting between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the coastal enclave. There were also reports of Palestinian riots along the border fence, which have recently become a nightly occurrence.

Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said locals would not accept a continuation of low-level violence such as incendiary balloon launches and rioting along the border fence.

“I expect the prime minister to face his citizens and explain to them what is the policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip that will restore a sense of security and guarantee calm in the area,” he told Channel 13 news.

Residents of southern Israel protest over the government’s response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, at the entrance to the city of Sderot, on March 26, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A member of the high-level security cabinet meanwhile told the network that Netanyahu was “abandoning” residents of the south.

“It is [Netanyahu’s] duty as the person responsible for security to embark on a campaign to remove Hamas’s rocket capabilities,” the unnamed minister said.

Also laying into Netanyahu was Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who called on the premier to immediately convene the security cabinet in order to put an end to the “disgrace” in Gaza.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a press conference held by his New Right party in Ashdod on March 26, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“In the cabinet I will know how to push for a fatal blow against Hamas,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the terror group that rules Gaza.

Bennett is campaigning for the post of defense minister, which is held by Netanyahu, and has frequently criticized the premier over his policies toward Gaza.

Though a calm had appeared to settle in on Tuesday following the latest round of violence, the army deployed additional troops to the border area and a senior official warned Israeli strikes in Gaza could resume “at any moment.”

The recent fighting began early Monday after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a home in a farming community in central Israel and wounded seven people, leading Israel to launch dozens of retaliatory raids on the enclave.

Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of bombing runs and Gazans fired some 60 projectiles at southern Israel, with the violence only waning before dawn Tuesday.

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