Residents of the Gaza border area slammed Labor Party candidate Tal Russo – a reserve general in the IDF and former Commander of the IDF’s southern forces – over comments he made in an interview with Yediot Acharonot, in which he said he was “surprised at the tears” over the Hamas terror balloon campaign. Eshkol Regional Council head Gadi Yarkoni said that Russo’s comments were “divorced from reality and outrageous. The residents of the Gaza border area have been and continue to pay the price for the limited response of security officials to incidents that have blown up into the major offensive we see today.”
Russo, who was recruited last month for Labor by party head Avi Gabbay as the party’s “hawk” on defense, said that he believed that “residents of the Gaza border area need to show some restraint. I am surprised at the crying over the terror balloons I am hearing.” The threat was not as great as they were making out.
The comments raised the ire of officials and residents of southern Israel. Merchavim Regional Council head Shai Hajaj. He said that “the time has come to understand that people here live with a different situation than residents of the center of the country. The criticism and denigration of the people who live here is wrong. We deal with challenges every day that we have never experienced before, and our people are very patient and restrained. Politicians should be investing their energy into finding a solution.”
Responding to the criticism in an interview on Channel 13, Russo said that “I support and applaud residents of the Gaza border area, I worked with them for a long time when there were daily terror attacks, and I got to know them very well. The noise we are making over the balloon terror attacks just encourages the enemy to increase their use. I am sorry that several sentences were taken out of context and were turned into the headline of the interview.”
On Motzoei Shabbos, Israeli forces bombed and destroyed two Hamas positions after the terror group dispatched a terror balloon at Israel earlier in the day. An explosive attached to the balloon exploded in southern Israel, but no injuries or damage were reported. This was the second terror balloon to explode in recent days; earlier last week, a balloon with an explosive device exploded near the headquarters of the Eshkol Regional Council. The building was damaged as a result of that explosion.
Meanwhile, it’s not clear if Russo will be able to remain on the Labor list. Chanan Meltzer, head of the Central Elections Committee, informed Russo that he may not have completed the full three years out of the IDF required to participate as a candidate in a Knesset election. Russo, in response, claimed that he has already been out of uniform for five years, and that any service after that was as a reserve soldier.