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Gaza-area leaders boycott Netanyahu update on border-security situation

Sha’ar HaNegev and Eshkol Regional Council heads refuse to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing the government of ignoring the Gaza periphery • Netanyahu: “It’s unfortunate the council heads chose to leave when we came to listen to them.”

An Israeli firefighter works to extinguish a blaze caused by an incendiary device sent from Gaza into southern Israel on June 27, 2019. Credit: Israel Fire and Rescue Services.
An Israeli firefighter works to extinguish a blaze caused by an incendiary device sent from Gaza into southern Israel on June 27, 2019. Credit: Israel Fire and Rescue Services.

The heads of two Gaza-area regional councils boycotted a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials on Wednesday, saying Israel’s government is failing to provide for the urgent needs of their communities in the wake of ongoing terrorist activity along the border.

After a security cabinet meeting in which issues pertaining to the Gaza periphery were also discussed, Netanyahu and heads of the IDF Southern Command met with local leaders, including the mayor of Ashkelon and the heads of the Bnei Shimon, Hof Ashkelon and Merhavim regional councils.

However, Gadi Yarkoni and Ofir Libstein, the heads of the Eshkol and Sha’ar HaNnegev regional councils, said that the areas represented at the meeting had not faced the intensity and destruction their areas had seen over recent weeks, and refused to attend.

“We respect our colleagues, the heads of regions in the south, they too are dealing with complex emergency situations, but we are sure that without a doubt the challenges, the needs and the reality facing the Gaza periphery are fundamentally different from [those facing] the other regions,” said Yarkoni and Libstein.

They accused the government of failing to provide support or do enough to stop the fires being set daily in the fields in and around their communities by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza, to end the threat of weekly border riots or to stop impromptu rocket attacks which leave them scrambling for cover, and called on Netanyahu to invite them to address their ongoing security situation.

“I am sorry that some regional council heads—who always say that they’re not being listened to—decided to leave when we specifically came to listen to them,” Netanyahu said in response. “But we will do what is needed for everyone.”

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