Security Cabinet Meets on Gaza Humanitarian Crisis

YERUSHALAYIM -
Palestinians rioting on the Gaza border on Friday. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Amid the ongoing Gaza border violence, Israel’s high-level security cabinets were set to convene on Sunday for “examining various possibilities to prevent a humanitarian collapse in Gaza.”

During his meeting with Chancellor [Angela] Merkel last week in Berlin, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blamed the economic crisis there for the border riots.

“I spoke with Chancellor Merkel about the situation in Gaza and repeated the fact that the entire border situation is due to the economic situation. Plain and simple,” Netanyahu told reporters following talks in Berlin.

He stressed that Israel was possibly the only country working to improve conditions in Gaza; by contrast, Hamas has been to blame for the situation by diverting resources to terror rather than social services. That, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to freeze the salaries of PA employees in Gaza, are to blame, he said.

The security cabinet is said to be considering allowing 6,000 workers from Gaza into Israel for the first time since 2007, according to Ynet.

A senior IDF officer last week described the situation in dire terms:

“Hamas is in its worst situation since it came to power [in 2007], and the same is true of the Gaza Strip. The responsibility for that lies first of all with Hamas, but we can also take steps,” he said. “Hamas is trying to figure out how to save itself from collapse, and it has only two solutions: reaching an arrangement [for quiet with Israel], or turning to military confrontation.”

However, there were voices on Sunday calling for something in return from Hamas for humanitarian assistance, and those who doubted that such assistance would solve the problem.

“In recent days people have been talking about humanitarian steps,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) said. “We need to remember that our sons, both bodies of soldiers and Israeli citizens, are held there.”

“Therefore I propose the following equation: Humanitarian [steps] in exchange for humanitarian [steps]. There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he said. “On the other side [of the border] stands a vicious enemy waiting for signs of naivete and free gifts.”

Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed both crossed into Gaza of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin Hy”d and Oron Shaul Hy”d were snatched by Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war. They have refused to even give information about them without the release of convicted terrorists from Israeli jails.

Goldin’s parents, Leah and Simcha, appealed to cabinet ministers not to allow any humanitarian measures without returning the missing Israelis and their sons’ remains.

They said Prime Minister Netanyahu had promised them that returning the soldiers would be a precondition for any agreement related to Gaza.

“Netanyahu is the one who coined the phrase ‘If they give, they will receive; if they won’t give, they won’t receive.’ That is the message that must come today from the cabinet meeting,” the Goldins said in a statement, according to media reports.

“The return of the boys is a distinct humanitarian issue, and that should be affirmed with all international bodies promoting an aid deal for Gaza,” they said.

Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman disputed Mr. Netanyahu’s assertion that economic hardships were fueling the violence. He called for an end to the “illusions and delusions that improving the economy will end terror.”

“The opposite is true; they’ll understand that with use of force and violence they can achieve political goals. To improve the reality in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas regime must be toppled. Anyone who wants more than four hours of electricity a day must topple the Hamas regime.”

He added that Hamas “can get a generous humanitarian package if it returns the missing Israelis.”

Meanwhile, the violence continued. At least 11 fires were reportedly started by incendiary kites sent over the Gaza border into Israel on Sunday.

Police on Sunday evening found and detonated an explosive device near Me’aras Hamachpelah.

In another security incident, Israeli children in a town near the Gaza border discovered a Gazan fire kite with a suspected bomb attached to it. Sappers neutralized it using a robot.

B’chasdei shamayim, no injuries were reported.

The authorities reminded residents to report any such devices landing in their areas to security forces, and not handle them on their own.