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SEPTEMBER 2020

Rocket Fire From Gaza, As IDF Chief Warns of Israel’s Willingness to Strike Civilian Infrastructure

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Rocket Fire From Gaza, As IDF Chief Warns of Israel's Willingness to Strike Civilian Infrastructure

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On December 25th, a rocket was launched from Gaza, and was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system.

No casualties or damages were reported.

In response, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched airstrikes on several Hamas targets throughout Gaza.

The Israeli military said warplanes and helicopter gunships struck several targets belonging to the Hamas terror group, “including the group’s military complexes.” It said the strikes were in response to the rocket launch, which IDF blames on Hamas.

The Israeli military said it held Hamas responsible for any activities in the Strip.

“It will suffer the consequences of activities against Israeli citizens,” the army said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the middle of a campaign event in Ashkelon at the time and was forced to evacuate to a bomb shelter along with the dozens of supporters in the room.

This was the second time since September that Netanyahu had to be evacuated as a result of rocket fire from Gaza during a campaign event in the south.

Essentially, it appears that his “election campaign” appears to be repeating.

After returning to the stage 15 minutes after being evacuated, Netanyahu warned the people behind the rocket fire.

“The person who fired the rocket last time is no longer with us. The person who did it this time should start packing their things,” he said.

The prime minister was referring to November’s assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander, who was hit by an Israeli precision strike in his home in Gaza.

In most cases, senior politicians refrain from announcing their visits to the area surrounding the Gaza Strip ahead of time out of concerns that it could attract attacks. That was not the case with the September and Wednesday night events. In both cases, the prime minister had publicized that he would be attending in advance.

In the week ending on December 22nd, two rocket attacks were launched against Israel from Gaza without causing injury, Israel’s army said.

In response, Israel twice bombed Hamas installations in the enclave.

Also, on December 25th, IDF Chief of the General Staff LTG Aviv Kohavi had a press conference claiming that Israel was alone in the fight against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East.

It would be better if we weren’t the only ones responding to them [militarily]”, Kohavi said.

The military chief, in his first major speech, said the IDF was operating throughout the region — openly, covertly and clandestinely — in order to thwart the plans of Iran and its proxies, “even at the risk of war.”

He also issued a warning to Israelis that the next war, when it came, would hit the home front hard.

“It must be known and recognized that in the next war — whether in the north or against Hamas — heavy fire will be directed against our home front. I’m looking people in the eye, and saying, there will be heavy fire. We have to recognize this and we have to prepare for this… We have to prepare for this militarily; the civil hierarchies have to prepare for this; and we have to prepare for this mentally.”

He said that Iran had changed its policies and its activities were much wider than before.

“In recent years, Iran has changed its policies and is much more active,” Kohavi said, noting attacks in recent months on petroleum facilities in Gulf states, which the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia blamed on Iran.

“And there’s no response, there’s no retaliation, there are no reprisals,” he said.

He mentioned the situation in the Gaza Strip, while his speech took place before the rocket fire.

“We will allow civil relief in exchange for significant security improvements in Gaza. That’s not my policy, that’s the government’s,” Kohavi said.

According to Kohavi, November’s two-day battle between the IDF and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad made a cease fire that much possible.

“We wanted to put the PIJ back in its place, something Hamas wouldn’t do, so we did it,” he said.

“As I speak, there’s an opportunity. Hamas is back dictating the order of the day — even if there’s a rocket or mortar here or there, which we won’t accept,” he said.

The army chief added that Israel was prepared to go to war if needed in order to restore quiet to the Gaza region.

“War is always the last choice, but in cases where all other paths have been exhausted, war is a solution, a military operation is a solution,” he said.

Kohavi said he hoped a long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas would be signed soon, but said Israel would not hold back from a military operation if necessary.

He further said that Israel wouldn’t hesitate to strike civilian areas, since the groups fighting against Israel use them to hide their infrastructure.

“The enemy decided to base itself in an urban environment, but we will respond forcefully,” he said. “We will warn the civilians who live there and give them time to evacuate.”

“We will strike the infrastructure of the country that allows this, the gas, fuel, and roads. Countries that allow or encourage terror groups to operate in their borders must know that they will be held responsible,” he said, specifically listing Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

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