The leaders of Israeli communities close to the Gaza Strip slept overnight Monday at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem and are refusing to leave until they meet with him to discuss a plan for the safe return of the residents to their homes.
The council heads also want to meet with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for a security review and are demanding that he and Netanyahu sign a document including security understandings and a statement guaranteeing the safe return of tens of thousands of residents evacuated in the days following the bloody Hamas invasion of Oct. 7.
The local authority heads are demanding that Netanyahu “come out to the citizens and declare that you are a guarantor of the security of the residents of [Gaza border communities],” Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi told Ynet.
A heated discussion reportedly took place on Monday about a plan drafted by the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Tekuma Authority and the Finance Ministry that would see the majority of the residents return to their homes in March. The council heads said the plan also included 75% cuts in daily grants for returning residents, saying that “we feel that the residents are being disrespected.”
Davidi said that the council heads managed to change the plan so that residents will be given the option of returning in July, with the state continuing to pay for their hotel stays until then.
In addition to being able to stay at hotels until July 7, 2024, those renting an apartment will continue to receive compensation payments.
Already last month, the IDF Home Front Command was preparing to allow a partial return home for residents of the northwestern Negev.
Residents of communities located four to seven kilometers (2.5 miles to 4.3 miles) from the Gaza Strip will be able to voluntarily return to their homes. The original per-day grants announced in January were for 200 shekels (some $55) per adult and 100 shekels (around $28) per child.