IDF prepared for all possibilities in south, says senior Likud MK

IDF prepared for all possibilities in south, says senior Likud MK

Tzachi Hanegbi, head of powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, warns Hamas is gaining strength

 

Israeli soldiers patrol just outside the central Gaza Strip on April 13, 2016 (Corinna Kern/Flash90)


A senior Likud member of Knesset said Saturday that Hamas was deterred by the last round of fighting with Israel in 2014 but that it is gaining strength.

Speaking on Channel 2 TV on Saturday, Tzachi Hanegbi, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the IDF was prepared for all possibilities, including grave ones, regarding possible new conflict with Gaza’s Islamist terror rulers.

“It’s no secret that Hamas has not changed its ways. Although [the terror group] is deterred, it is gaining strength,” Hanegbi, who also serves as chairman of the government coalition, said Saturday. He added that “what’s more important is what the IDF is doing. And it is preparing for all possibilities, including grave, difficult ones. I can say that if there are provocations [from Hamas], we can count on [the IDF].”

Hanegbi’s comments came amid fast-rising tensions along the Gaza Strip border, where Israel on Thursday carried out its largest civilian drill near the Palestinian enclave since 2014’s war between Israel and Hamas, according to a Channel 2 report Friday.

Hanegbi’s remarks echoed comments made Thursday by the IDF’s Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, who said during a meeting with the heads of local councils in the south that the military was “always on the ready and the residents can rest easy.”

Likud MK and head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzachi Hanegbi. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK and head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzachi Hanegbi. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

During the drill Thursday, soldiers and emergency response teams simulated a Hamas incursion into Israeli territory, including an attack on an Israeli kibbutz near the border and the taking of hostages by terrorists. The exercise, which was held at Kibbutz Erez, included troops overpowering the terrorists in the community’s dining hall.

Participants in the drill included the army, the police, Magen David Adom medics, the fire department, civilian response teams and others.

Israeli troops simulate an operation to overcome terrorists with hostages, in a drill at the dining hall at Kibbutz Erez, near Gaza, April 14, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)

Israeli troops simulate an operation to overcome terrorists with hostages, in a drill at the dining hall at Kibbutz Erez, near Gaza, April 14, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)

The report also said that although Israel believes Hamas does not want a new war now, the IDF has in recent days completed preparations for any outbreak of conflict.

It added that the army has boosted its deployment adjacent to the Gaza border in preparation for such an eventuality.

Israeli troops drill at Kibbutz Erez, near Gaza, April 14, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)

Israeli troops drill at Kibbutz Erez, near Gaza, April 14, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)

On Thursday Palestinian media said IDF bulldozers entered the Gaza Strip and carried out work near the border fence. The Ma’an News Agency, citing eyewitnesses, reported that four bulldozers moved several meters into the southern Gaza Strip in an area east of the city of Rafah and began leveling ground near the border.

An Israeli D9 bulldozer rolls along the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip following Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on July 10, 2014. (photo credit: Jack Guez/AFP)

An Israeli D9 bulldozer rolls along the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip following Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on July 10, 2014. (photo credit: Jack Guez/AFP)

Drones were seen flying overhead as the IDF earth-movers worked.

According to Ma’an, it was the latest in over half a dozen similar incursions over the past ten days.

A senior IDF officer told reporters Thursday that Hamas is amassing fighters and materiel at a “surprisingly” quick pace in Gaza but that the terror group does not appear to be prepared for renewed direct conflict with Israel in the near future.

He stressed the terrorist organization would not again drag Israel into a war, and that any future conflict would be one undertaken at the initiative of the Jewish state.

His comments came a day after a senior Defense Ministry official indicated there is no expectation of an increase in violence with Hamas.

“The good news is that our deterrence is still working,” said Amos Gilad, director of the ministry’s Political-Military Affairs Bureau, at a conference on the beleaguered coastal strip’s financial woes.

“They say that there will be a ‘hot’ summer. That’ll only be because of the high temperatures,” he continued, alluding to the tendency for regional conflicts to take place in warmer summer months.

“Economics alone can’t solve [Gaza’s problems]. Economics are not the fundamental solution,” Gilad said in his address.

So long as Hamas rules the Gaza Strip, he added, there will not be peace there.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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