(November 14, 2019 / Israel Hayom) “The new rules of the game are clear—the IDF will operate freely, without any limitation,” Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday, a short while after a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) went into effect, ending two days of intense rocket-fire from the Gaza Strip.
Bennett, who took up his post as defense minister on Tuesday as rockets fell across central and southern Israel following the targeted killing of PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata, singled out residents of the country’s southern, Gaza-adjacent communities for special praise over their handling of the crisis.
“I’m proud of our soldiers, who stand vigilant, and of the Israeli public,” said Bennett, “especially the residents of the south, who show the kind of resilience that bolsters the decision-makers.”
According to a statement by the Israeli military on Thursday, in the wake of the strike on Abu al-Ata, code-named “Operation Black Belt,” PIJ fired 450 rockets at Israel within a 48-hour period. Israel’s Iron Dome air-defense system intercepted 90 percent of projectiles aimed at residential areas and strategic sites, the military said.
The Israel Air Force mounted four waves of airstrikes against PIJ in Gaza, killing 25 terrorists and eliminating rocket production sites and launch sites, according to the military.
A senior Israeli political source told Israel Hayom on Thursday that the “operation achieved its goal,” and that Israel “has given nothing” to secure the ceasefire. The source added that “the situation on the ground will set the tone going forward. There’s no change in policy. If anyone tries to harm us, we will harm them.”
United Nations envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov wrote on Twitter on Thursday that Egypt and the United Nations had “worked hard” to prevent the situation from deteriorating into a full-fledged war, calling on all the parties to show “maximum restraint” to avoid further bloodshed.
#BREAKING: #Egypt and the #UN worked hard to prevent the most dangerous escalation in and around #Gaza from leading to #war. The coming hours and days will be critical. ALL must show maximum restraint and do their part to prevent bloodshed. The #MiddleEast does not need more wars
— Nickolay E. MLADENOV (@nmladenov) November 14, 2019
Also on Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio that he believes the ultimate solution for the situation in Gaza is the creation of economic prospects for the Palestinians.
He stressed, however, that Israel must maintain an aggressive policy against those who would threaten it, and pointed to the fact that Hamas—the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip—stayed out of the fighting as being an indication that Israel’s policy of deterrence was working.
Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid disagreed, however, saying on Thursday that “Israeli deterrence is practically nonexistent,” and adding that the country’s southern residents “don’t feel safe.”
While “Operation Black Belt” was an “extraordinary” achievement, said Lapid, on its own it was not enough to change the overall situation.
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