Repeated rocket fire from Gaza will push Israel into taking “aggressive” action in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli chief of staff warned MPs on Tuesday.
“One round after another; we shall in the end need to move to broader, more aggressive action in the Gaza Strip,” Benny Gantz was quoted by a parliamentary official as telling the committee on foreign affairs and defence.
Hours after he spoke, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets into southern Israel, damaging a farm outbuilding but causing no casualties, Israeli police said.
Low-level unrest has rumbled on in and around Gaza over the last two weeks but it has not deteriorated into all-out fighting as it did on October 29-30 when tit-for-tat violence left 12 Palestinian militants and an Israeli civilian dead.
Militant groups say they are observing an Egyptian-brokered truce agreement, but during the last two weeks rockets have still landed in southern Israel and the army has responded with air strikes, which have killed five Palestinians and injured at least 11.
“Every few months, we have to go back for another round of fighting” to stamp out rocket fire, Gantz later told reporters at a briefing.
“It would be in Israel’s best interest to shorten the duration of future rounds of fighting through intelligence, through force and through ongoing activity,” he said.
Israel has always laid responsibility for the rocket fire at the door of Gaza’s Hamas rulers, although officials acknowledge it is not Hamas militants who are behind the fire.
And both the political and defence establishment have said they do not believe Hamas is interested in escalating the situation with Israel at this stage.
“Our deterrence with respect to Hamas is very high,” Gantz said, noting the Islamist movement was “very concerned by the continued growth in the power of Islamic Jihad in the recent round of fighting.”
He also confirmed long-running media reports about the infiltration of Libyan weapons into the Gaza Strip.
“In our estimation, as part of the collapse of the regime in Libya, weapons were transferred into the Gaza Strip,” he said without elaborating.
Unnamed Israeli officials have frequently warned that weapons smuggled out of Libya, where a revolt against the late leader Moamer Kadhafi left an abundance of arsenal, were finding their way into Gaza.
Gunrunners are believed to smuggle the weapons into the coastal strip through a network of tunnels which are also used to take food and other contraband into the blockaded Palestinian enclave.