The calls for a stronger response to rocket fire from Gaza are irresponsible, Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said on Tuesday.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot visits Hamas terror tunnels on the Gaza border. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
“Over 60 rockets have been fired towards Israel, 20 in the last month. This is something that we will not accept. We are carrying out various covert and overt efforts, including promotion of restraining factors,” Eisenkot said at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya dedicated to the subject of the IDF in Israeli society, in memory of former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak.
“Deterrence is not built in a day, and does not crumble in a day,” he added.
The continued rocket fire towards southern Israeli communities has led to many officials calling for a stronger response, including Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi. A number of rockets have hit the city, including one which struck a kindergarten in mid-December.
“I expect the prime minister, the defense minister and the IDF commander to strike the terror groups without mercy,” Davidi said. “We will not tolerate the continued fire at the city of Sderot.”
While the rocket fire has been limited to communities around the Hamas-run enclave, one rocket was intercepted over the city of Ashkelon some 20 kilometers from the Strip.
The IDF responded to all rockets fired, hitting over 40 targets in the Strip.
“I do not know of one time that the IDF attacked a position that was not a terror target,” Eisenkot said, adding that rogue groups in the Gaza Strip are trying to drag the IDF into a war there.
On Friday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated that the mortars which were fired towards southern Israel that day were from Iran and had been supplied to different groups in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials have accused Iran of growing involvement in Gaza.
According to Eisenkot, Iran has increased its support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the last few months to $100 million in order to exert more influence in the area. Tehran had frozen its financial support to Hamas in 2012 after the group refused to support the Assad regime, but in September was reported to be financing Hamas with some $60-70 million.
The chief of staff warned that the influence of the Iranian umbrella is a multi-dimensional threat that is the IDF’s biggest challenge. The first threat, he said, is the Islamic Republic’s desire for nuclear weapons; the second is the “tremendous effort” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qud’s Force to create a Shiite Crescent stretching from Iran to Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and even the Gaza Strip.
According to Eisenkot, the dire humanitarian situation in the Strip - which led Hamas to reconcile with the Palestinian Authority - can lead to instability. While the IDF does not intend to escalate the situation, Hamas is trying to carry out terror attacks in the West Bank in order to keep the Gazan front quiet.
Since the beginning of the latest wave of violence to hit Israel and the West Bank beginning in 2015, numerous Hamas attacks have been thwarted by security forces.
On Monday, a source in the Shin Bet stated that, “recently there has been a growing motivation by Hamas headquarters in the Gaza Strip to carry out terror attacks through operatives in the West Bank.”
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