There is a growing understanding in the U.S. that Hamas is the destabilizing factor in the region and that its continued provocations prevent real progress to be made on any front relating to the Palestinian issue.
By Tobias Siegal, World Israel News
Addressing the heightened tensions along the Gaza border in recent weeks, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said Wednesday that Israel has been preparing for the possibility of another military operation in Gaza ever since May’s Gaza conflict came to an end.
“Right after Operation Guardian of the Walls the IDF started preparing, with a concerted effort, for the possibility of another operation in Gaza,” he said. “We will not allow any violation of our sovereignty … Hamas will be held responsible for anything that happens in the Strip.”
And while Israel considers the operation a success, having managed to strike hundreds of sensitive Hamas targets in the course of 11 days, the IDF never stopped preparing for a future confrontation with the Gaza-based terror group.
And the reality on the ground in recent weeks has brought many Israelis to believe that the threat of renewed fighting in Gaza may be just around the corner.
Attempting to pressure Israel into allowing Qatari funds into the Strip and advancing the reconstruction of Gaza following May’s operation, Hamas has increased the scope of its arson balloon terrorism, leading to extensive damage to agricultural lands and sometimes to civilian property in southern Israel.
Last week, In an act of humanitarian relief, Israeli authorities opened the Erez border crossing for the first time in 18 months, permitting some 1,000 Gazan traders to enter Israel and renewing the import of medical and construction supplies into the Strip.
But it seems like that, nor repeated warnings from Egypt, were enough to stop Hamas from carrying out terrorist activities along the border, with fires caused by arson balloons sparking nine fires in southern Israel on Monday.
Tensions between Israel and Hamas peaked a few days earlier, on Saturday, when an Israeli sniper was critically injured along the Gaza border after being shot in the head from point-blank range. The incident led to Israeli airstrikes targeting four Hamas targets in the Strip.
Thousands of Palestinians marched near the Gaza perimeter fence on Wednesday afternoon, in what Gaza factions described as a “peaceful” event. But considering that Saturday’s riots were initially described as “peaceful” as well, the IDF stated Tuesday that it had reinforced the Gaza Division in order to ensure that Saturday’s incident does not repeat itself.
The IDF’s Spokesman in Arabic, Lt.-Col. Avichay Adraee, issued a warning to the residents of Gaza ahead of the planned march on Wednesday. “Do not approach the border fence and do not use violence and terrorism. Hamas invites you to risk yourselves again,” he said.
And while the scope of the riots were smaller compared to those on Saturday, clashes were reported between Israeli troops positioned along the border and Palestinian rioters who neared the fence.
According to Palestinian reports, 14 Palestinians were injured in clashes with the IDF along the border, including five from live fire.
Meanwhile, Israeli media reported Wednesday that the IDF was preparing for the possibility of Hamas launching rockets toward Israel during the planned meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday.
Citing an Israeli official, Channel 12 reported that there is a growing understanding in the U.S. that Hamas is the destabilizing factor in the region and that its continued provocations prevent real progress to be made on any front relating to the Palestinian issue.
In any case, Chief of Staff Kohavi has indicated that the IDF will continue to prepare for any scenario that develops in Gaza, including a prolonged operation if necessary.