Israel Holds Off on Gaza Operation While Rockets Fall

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. (REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool)
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. (REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool)

Terrorists in the Gaza Strip continued to rain rockets onto southern Israel on Sunday, but despite repeated warnings to Hamas, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was resisting calls for an IDF operation in the Palestinian enclave.

Netanyahu said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that Israel must act “with composure and responsibly,” and not with “militancy or rashness.”

Israeli restraint was met with a fresh barrage of rocket fire on Sunday afternoon. Ten projectiles landed in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, three hit the Eshkol Regional Council area, one of which started a brush fire, and two rockets landed in open territory in the Ashkelon Coast Council region. No casualties were reported.

Behind the scenes, the international community has promised Israel it would intervene to effect a ceasefire, but so far there has been no cessation of attacks. On the contrary, Hamas has stepped up its rhetoric, threatening to reach “all” of Israel’s cities with its rockets.

Egypt, the U.S. and Europe have been in communication with Hamas in an effort to halt the attacks and further escalation and, at times during the past few days, an agreement did appear in the offing. But as of late Sunday, the rockets were still coming.

Over the weekend, from Friday morning to Motzoei Shabbos, about 40 rockets and 10 mortars were launched against Israel. For the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, air raid sirens sounded in Be’er Sheva, where 3 Grad rockets were brought down by Iron Dome interceptors. On Shabbos, Iron Dome intercepted a projectile over the town of Ofakim.

Several rockets reached as far as Ashkelon and Ofakim, though they landed in open areas. B’chasdei Shamayim, there were no serious injuries, but four people were treated for shock.

Heads of Jewish communities in the south appealed to the government to delay no longer and to retaliate in a swift and effective manner.

“It is intolerable that hundreds of thousands of people should be under rocket fire for a week without stop, and the only response are night attacks on empty terrorist sites,” they said in a public statement.

During Shabbos, minyanim in southern communities were held as usual, albeit with interruptions to take cover in protected areas when warning sirens were heard.

At least 150 rockets have landed in Israeli territory since June 14 when the operation to find three Israeli teens kidnapped and murdered by Hamas began, the IDF said Sunday.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have urged a more aggressive policy, including a broad-scale ground operation in Gaza to clean out the terrorist infrastructure. But so far Israel has limited its response to air strikes on select targets.

Israeli planes struck rocket-launching sites in Gaza before dawn on Sunday, hitting 10 targets in central and southern Gaza.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz visited the Gaza border region where troops have been poised since late last week for a possible incursion into the Hamas enclave.