“Tonight and the coming weekend will serve as a test of stability,” an Israeli Defense official said, adding that if the quiet is preserved, Israel will extend the Gaza fishing zone to 15 nautical miles for their fishing boats and restore 500 work permits for Gaza’s businessmen to enter Israel.
Will peace and quiet return to Israel’s south? A defense official on Thursday night said Hamas intends to cease launching incendiary devices from Gaza at the country’s southern communities.
“Hamas has delivered messages to Israel, whereby it has decided to unilaterally stop launching [incendiary and explosives-laden] balloons and rockets at Israel,” the official said.“Tonight [Friday] and the coming weekend will serve as a test of stability,” the official added, saying that if the quiet is preserved Israel will re-expand the fishing zones for Palestinians off the Gaza coast to 15 nautical miles and restore 500 work permits for Gazan businessmen to enter Israel.
Hamas’ decision came amid another tense day in the south, which included over 10 attacks with explosives-laden balloons. Some of the balloons landed near a school, while a cluster of at least four balloons exploded over one community in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, causing panic among its residents.
Egyptian and United Nations mediators intervened this week, sending delegations to Gaza on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, according to Palestinian reports.
According to the defense echelon’s most recent assessments, meanwhile, a significant military operation in Gaza is closer than ever but is being postponed due to the upcoming general election on March 2.
While Israeli officials are still hopeful that Hamas will halt the attacks, the odds of this happening appear to be growing slim.
“We are skeptical – but an attempt will be made to restore stability to the Gaza envelope,” the defense official said.
According to one senior defense official, the IDF could have easily escalated the situation on the Gaza border, which would have led to the aforementioned military operation (about which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We are preparing for Hamas the surprise of its life”), but due to the looming election and the belief that a military operation on the scale that has been planned could disrupt or completely postpone the election – the army has opted for restraint and measured retaliation.
PM Netanyahu: “I will not go into detail about all of our actions and plans for the media, but we are prepared to take devastating action against the terrorist organizations in Gaza. Our actions are very strong and they have not yet ended, to put it mildly.”
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 9, 2020
Earlier this week, Netanyahu issued a statement, saying: “We will not accept any aggression from Gaza. Only a few weeks ago, we targeted the senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, and I suggest that both Islamic Jihad and Hamas refresh their memories. I will not go into detail about all of our actions and plans for the media, but we are prepared to take devastating action against the terrorist organizations in Gaza. Our actions are very strong and they have not yet ended, to put it mildly.”
At Netanyahu’s request, the cabinet approved Sunday the appropriation of 35 million shekels for security and civilian resiliency components in Ashkelon.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett warned that the security escalation on the Israel-Gaza Strip Border may leave Israel no choice but to mount what he called a “deadly response” against the terrorist groups in the coastal enclave.
“We will not say when or where,” he added.
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