Gantz says Hamas could face tougher Israeli action in response to rockets


Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday that the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas could face tougher Israeli action in response to rocket fire into Israel, following a series of attacks on the south over the past week.

“We will continue to show civil and economic generosity only if security stability is maintained,” Gantz said after meeting with senior military officials at the IDF’s Southern Command, a day after announcing the closure of the IDF. Gaza Strip’s only pedestrian crossing with Israel.

This decision came after new rocket attacks on the south on Friday evening and Saturday night. The closure of the Erez crossing has also been renewed for Monday, security officials confirmed to The Times of Israel on Sunday evening.

The number of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who can work in Israel was increased to 12,000 last month, and the government has announced it will increase it by another 8,000, for a total of 20,000.

“Terrorist organizations and incitement perpetrators must remember that it is those whose economic, civil and military situation is unstable who will be severely affected by any unrest,” Gantz said according to a statement from his office.

Recent rocket attacks on southern Israel have been blamed on Hamas’ rival, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But it is widely believed that Hamas has enough of a stronghold in the coastal enclave that no rival group will fire on Israel without the ruling group’s tacit approval, at the very least. “The responsibility of [the rocket fire] is with Hamas,” Gantz said.

Palestinian workers are seen at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

“Israel has the ability and will continue to use the power and various means at its disposal, as it sees fit,” Gantz added, after some local officials lashed out at the lack of military response to recent attacks in rocket.

Gantz also spoke about the recent clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. “Ramadan is supposed to be a holiday of prayer and family gathering. Unfortunately, there are those who hold stones and Molotov cocktails in their hands, instead of holy books.

Previously, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid had squarely blamed Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which he said sent militants to the Temple Mount in order to incite violence that demands a police response.

Palestinians, including one waving a Hamas flag, clash with Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups have repeatedly invoked the holy site as a red line. Police actions to quell riots there last year were among the triggers of an 11-day war in Gaza last May.

The Gaza Strip has been blocked by Israel and Egypt for 15 years in an effort to contain the leaders of Hamas and other groups in the enclave. Israel says the tight restrictions on goods and people are necessary because of efforts by Hamas, which has sworn to the destruction of Israel, to massively arm itself for attacks on the Jewish state.

Critics lament the blockade’s impact on ordinary Gazans, about 50 percent of whom are unemployed, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Exorbitant poverty rates make employment in Israel a very attractive option for those lucky enough to receive permits.

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