Liberman: 'This is a security abandonment, not policy'

Residents of south, opposition MKs slam government’s lack of response to Gaza rocket

‘They’re again forgetting us,’ says Sderot man after another attack from Hamas-ruled Strip apparently goes unanswered; ministers mum on failure to retaliate

Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israel launched airstrikes following rocket fire aimed at Israel from the Hamas-run Strip early on January 27, 2023. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)
Illustrative: Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israel launched air strikes on the Palestinian enclave following rocket fire aimed at Israel from the Hamas-run Strip early on January 27, 2023. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Residents of southern Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip and opposition figures slammed the government on Sunday for not responding to a rocket fired from the coastal enclave the night before, the second time in less than two weeks that Israel has refrained from retaliating to such an attack.

The rocket, which set off alert sirens, landed in an open area near the border fence, causing neither injuries nor damage.

“They are again forgetting us. This government is a total disappointment,” Dvir Sassi of Sderot told Kan public radio, in a gibe at the government’s boasts of being “totally right-wing.”

“Last night took us backward to a period in which [Gazan terror groups] fired on us and none of them cared,” he added. “Qassam [rockets] can rain down freely here and no one cares.”

Sassi said he was particularly frustrated after encouraging fellow Sderot residents to back right-wing factions in the November elections, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-religious bloc won a majority of Knesset seats and went on to form a government.

“The main thing is the judicial reform,” he said angrily, referring to the coalition’s push to weaken the judiciary.

Along with the lack of military response, no government official has directly addressed the latest launch of a projectile from Gaza, which is ruled by the Hamas terror organization.

As they arrived Sunday for the weekly cabinet meeting, numerous ministers ignored an Army Radio reporter’s questions about why Israel was not responding to the rocket fire.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on March 19, 2023. P(Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Denouncing the government, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman said ministers also ignored rocket fire in February, when projectiles were lobbed at Israel following retaliatory strikes on Hamas sites after an initial attack. He also noted, too, that there was no response to a suspected bombing attack in northern Israel earlier this week that the military believes was carried out by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

The Gaza Strip-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Sunday morning claimed one of its senior members, an engineer, was assassinated by Israel in Syria. However it did not appear to be a direct response to Saturday’s rocket fire.

“Netanyahu again proves he is a coward. This is not a security policy; this is a security abandonment,” Liberman wrote on Twitter.

National Unity MK Ze’ev Elkin accused the government of “freezing the fight against terror,” which he linked to a planned summit in Egypt on Sunday aimed at preventing a flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian violence over the upcoming Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

No armed faction has claimed responsibility for Saturday night’s rocket attack, which came two days after four Palestinians, at least two of whom were terror operatives, were shot dead by undercover Israeli forces during a daytime raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Over the past year, Gaza-based groups — notably Islamic Jihad — have repeatedly launched rockets at Israel in response to members being killed or arrested in the West Bank.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunmen attend the funeral of fellow member in the Jenin refugee camp on October 8, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Last week, a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip in response to a deadly Israeli West Bank raid landed in Israeli territory close to the border security barrier. Several hours later, Palestinians set off an explosive device near troops operating on the border.

There was also no response to that rocket attack, which came before US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s flight to Israel from Egypt, but the IDF struck a Hamas observation post following the border bombing.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks. Those tensions have ramped up even further in recent weeks, featuring a cycle of deadly Israeli raids and Palestinian revenge attacks, as well as an uptick in settler violence.

Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 14 Israelis dead and several more seriously hurt.

At least 85 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.

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