Gaza ceasefire holds, but Netanyahu issues warning

Updated March 27, 2019

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Israeli soldiers take aim as they lie prone over an earth barrier along the border with the Gaza strip.— AFP/File
Israeli soldiers take aim as they lie prone over an earth barrier along the border with the Gaza strip.— AFP/File

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he was prepared for further military action in Gaza after cutting short a Washington visit and returning to Israel following a shaky ceasefire announced by Hamas.

After Hamas said Egypt had brokered a truce late on Monday aimed at ending a severe escalation, further exchanges of fire occurred throughout the night before calm again returned at around 6am.

Gaza and Israeli cities near the Palestinian enclave remained quiet throughout the day.

UN envoy for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov told the United Nations Security Council that a “fragile calm” had returned but the situation remained “extremely tense”.

There were no deaths on either side, but seven Israelis and seven Palestinians were wounded in the flare-up at a highly sensitive time ahead of Israel’s April 9 elections.

Speaking via satellite link to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual conference after returning from Washington, where he met US President Donald Trump, Netanyahu said “we are prepared to do a lot more”.

“We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state,” he said after Israeli retaliatory strikes in response to a rare long-distance rocket attack that hit a house near Tel Aviv.

Later, the army said that after a situation assessment with Netanyahu, military chief of staff Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi ordered that support forces to the brigade be sent to the southern region.

Kohavi also “approved completing the summoning of additional reserve soldiers,” a statement from the military read, without providing further details.

The prime minister is widely believed to want to avoid a fourth war in Gaza since 2008 with unpredictable consequences ahead of the elections, but he is also under heavy political pressure.

Israel kept up air strikes on Gaza into the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday and Palestinian militants launched new rockets despite the ceasefire claim.

The Israeli army reported late-night mortar fire and 30 new rocket launches from Gaza, on top of 30 rockets detected earlier on Monday evening.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2019