Netanyahu Vists Gaza Border Town 07/16 06:19
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a southern
Israeli town bordering Gaza on Monday that was pummeled with rockets over the
weekend from the strip and told community leaders there that Israel is engaged
in a "lengthy battle."
Netanyahu's visit to Sderot comes a day after an informal cease-fire took
hold to end 24 hours of intense fighting with Gaza's Hamas militants that had
threatened to devolve into all-out war.
Israel pounded Hamas targets in its most massive bombardment since the 2014
war, while militants fired dozens of rockets toward Israel that halted daily
life in the area. Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an Israeli airstrike
in Gaza City, while four Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a
residential home in Sderot.
Netanyahu visited a local kindergarten and pledged that Israel would put an
end to the rocket fire and a Gaza militant campaign of sending incendiary kites
and balloons across the border that have ignited fires damaging Israeli farms
and nature reserves.
Hamas will face a "wall of steel" if it keeps up its aggression against
Israel, Netanyahu warned, adding however that the threat won't disappear
"It doesn't end in one strike," Netanyahu said. "We know we are engaged in a
On Saturday, the Israeli military struck several Hamas military compounds
and flattened a number of its training camps. Hamas retaliated with more than
200 rockets and mortars toward Israeli communities.
After Hamas accepted an Egypt-mediated cease-fire late Saturday, the
situation calmed down but flaming kites and balloons continued to waft over
into Israel, with the military signaling a new policy of striking back
The government is under pressure from local communities to show zero
tolerance to this new threat, and Netanyahu told local leaders he has
instructed the military to halt it completely.
"There is no such thing as a cease-fire that does not include the flaming
kites and balloons," he said. "If this is not understood through my words, it
will be understood through the military's actions."
On Sunday evening, the military announced that following a "situation
assessment" it reinforced its Iron Dome batteries in central Israel and in the
country's south and called up a small number of reserve army soldiers. The Iron
Dome shot down more than 20 projectiles over the weekend.
With Israel focused on efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent
military foothold in neighboring Syria, it has been wary of escalating violence
in Gaza. But the extensive offensive appeared aimed at signaling to Hamas that
it was unafraid to engage if necessary.
The flare-up came after months of near-weekly border demonstrations
organized by Hamas to protest the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Over 130
Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began on March
Israel says it is defending its sovereign border and accuses Hamas of using
the protests as cover for attempts to breach the border fence and attack
Israeli civilians and soldiers.