IDF Admits Jumping Gun on All-Clear for South

YERUSHALAYIM (Hamodia Staff) -
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (L) seen with IDF Southern Command Sami Turgeman. They have come under fire for telling residents of the south to return home before it was safe. (IDF SPokesperson/ Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (L) seen with IDF Southern Command Sami Turgeman. They have come under fire for telling residents of the south to return home before it was safe. (IDF SPokesperson/ Flash90)

Israeli military and civilian officials are admitting to angry residents of the war-torn south that they were premature in announcing it was safe to return home last week.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid admitted Monday that the government may have erred in telling residents of the Gaza Belt communities to go back to their homes, during a recent ceasefire that was, at best, tenuous.

In a visit to Sderot, Lapid said, “The first role of the government is to provide security for the residents of Sderot and the Gaza Belt. It may have been a little too early to declare that quiet was restored, when it hadn’t been.”

On Sunday, Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch conducted a similar tour of kibbutzim near Gaza. Residents of Kibbutz Kfar Aza were furious that the authorities had notified them it was safe to go back to the kibbutzim.

“Why did they have to tell us to return home? I can’t describe the suffering it has caused us,” a resident of Kfar Aza told Aharonovitch. “Why did they have to announce a return to routine so quickly?”

The kibbutz members said that, as far as they are concerned, it is Hamas that is in control of the agenda and not Israel, and that situation does not allow routine life to continue.

The head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, met with residents of communities located near the Gaza Strip who went back home, only to be faced with renewed rocket and mortar fire from Gaza after a ceasefire broke down.

Commander of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, speaks during a press conference on the security situation for residents near Gaza. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
Commander of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, speaks during a press conference on the security situation for residents near Gaza. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

During the meeting, Turgeman admitted the mistake. “I know we have made mistakes in some of our announcements,” he said.

But another senior IDF officer, speaking over the weekend, was unapologetic: “It is possible now to be within those areas now just it was possible during Protective Edge to be in Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva, even though there was firing. This is not a new situation for the residents [of the southern communities]. They have protected rooms, and with proper protection it is possible to live there,” he added.

“It is safer here than it was before the operation. The firing is not the only factor here. These communities have been fired on for years and people did not leave because of it,” the officer said.