Via Egyptians, Israel and Hamas Swap Appeals for Calm and Threats

YERUSHALAYIM -
Flame and smoke are seen during an Israeli airstrike on Al-Qassam site of the military wing of Hamas in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip early on Monday. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israel and Hamas have passed each other messages via an Egyptian security delegation that is visiting Gaza, Channel 12 reported. The message from the Israeli side was one expressing a desire for quiet in the south and a willingness to “work with” the Gaza terror group – alongside a threat that if Hamas does continue resorting to violence, it could expect a major Israeli response.

Egyptian media reported that the Hamas and Egyptian officials met Monday in Gaza to discuss the uptick in violence in recent days, with Egypt urging Hamas to rein in attacks on Israel. The meeting also dealt with Hamas’ efforts to prevent smuggling the Gaza border with Sinai. But the two issues were connected, Hamas representatives at the meeting said: The economic situation in Gaza continued to deteriorate, turning the population more desperate. In its message to Israel, Hamas said that without a relaxation of the economic pressure on Gaza it would be impossible to deal with terror.

The Egyptians told Hamas that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Office had a message for them: Israel wished to restore the security situation to its previous calmer level, and if that did not happen Israel would “strike hard” at Hamas “with the backing of the United States and hit Hamas in a manner that it would not recover from,” Channel 12 said.

Hamas responded by saying that it was not seeking to inflame tensions, but that Israel was not keeping to previous agreements on liberalizing shipments to Gaza and allowing more Gazans to work in Israel. Hamas also warned Israel not to act more aggressively, saying “any foolish act by Israel such as elimination of senior Hamas personnel will lead to a difficult battle that will have a profound effect on Israel and its leadership,” Channel 12 said.

At Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, ministers discussed, among other things, the security situation in southern Israel. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel was not looking for a fight with Hamas, but would attack the terror group if it did not stop firing rockets and dispatching terror balloon clusters at Israel. Repeating comments he made on a visit to soldiers at the Gaza front earlier Sunday, Bennett said that “the rash behavior of Hamas is bringing us closer to a destructive action against them. We will not announce where or when this action will take place. Hamas has two choices – choose life and prosper, or choose terror and pay a heavy price.”

At a Knesset session Monday, Blue and White head Benny Gantz repeated his previous condemnation of the government for failing to halt rocket and balloon terror attacks from Gaza. “You have turned the ‘Gaza envelope’ into the ‘Gaza hostage,’” Gantz addressed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, using a Hebrew idiom. “You make all sorts of promises that you can’t fulfill, while children of the south hide in fear. The Red Alert sirens force them into shelters, but they do not move you. You are bored by the plight of residents of the south. Are you the head of the right-wing bloc or are you prime minister of Israel?”