Israel Defense Forces says Hamas playing with fire

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IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis warned Hamas Thursday its “only option is to stop the rocket fire,” and that the Israeli military would not tolerate anything less than “complete quiet” on its border with the Gaza Strip.

“We’ve seen in the past three and a half years that Hamas when it wants to, knows how to prevent rocket fire coming from Gaza,” Manelis said in an interview with Army Radio.

In July 2014, Israel fought a lengthy and devastating war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel set a new balance of power after it ended, determining that any rocket or mortar fire from Gaza would be met with an immediate response. This policy, Manelis said, has ensured the time since the end of the conflict has been the quietest southern Israel has ever known.

The deterrence built up since 2014 “wasn’t built in a day and it won’t come crashing down in a week,” he continued, stressing nonetheless that Israel would not accept anything less than total calm in the Strip.

According to Manelis, most, if not all, of the 16 projectiles fired at Israel from Gaza in the last week were not launched by Hamas, but rather by smaller “rogue or independent terrorist groups,” such as Islamic Jihad. Nevertheless, he reaffirmed the IDF holds Hamas responsible for everything that happens within Gaza and “for anything that comes out of it.”

The Army Radio interviewer, veteran investigative journalist Ilana Dayan, asked whether Hamas allows these more marginal extremist groups to continue firing at Israel.

In so many words, the answer was yes.

“Hamas is playing a double game, and it’s a game we can’t allow,” Manelis said. “On the one hand, it tries to prevent launches from certain areas, and on the other, it calls for an intifada [uprising]and tries to bring masses of people to protest along the [security]fence.”

Tensions along Israel’s border with the Gaza have been high as of late after US President Donald Trump announced the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and would move its embassy there. His declaration set off riots across the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza.

Sixteen rockets have been fired toward Israeli territory over the past week, including three Wednesday night. Three were wounded.

Update: Sirens were heard in Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, Sdot Negev Regional Council, and Hof Ashkelon regional council. Reports of at least one interception over 

Manelis also addressed the discovery and neutralization earlier this week of a Hamas tunnel stretching from Gaza into Israeli territory and said that by the end of 2018, there will be no more terror tunnels crossing into Israel.

“Hamas understands the reality is changing,” he said.

“We have many tools in our hands to prevent escalation. But before anything else, we want complete quiet on the border. Not ‘just a little rocket fire.’ Complete quiet. Anything else is unacceptable,” he added.

Originally posted at Jerusalem Post.


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