News 12 july — 13:05

PM says preparing for possible ‘surprising’ Gaza offensive, but prefers calm

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said that although he would prefer for the border with Gaza to remain calm, Israel was preparing for a possible wide-ranging military offensive that would be “surprising.”, The Times of Israel reports.

“I prefer that there be calm — not that we are under the illusion that we can reach a political agreement with [Hamas], who wants to wipe the State of Israel off the face of the earth. But we are preparing for a campaign that is not only broad, but also surprising,” Netanyahu said in a meeting at city hall in the coastal city of Ashkelon, which has seen heavy bombardment by rockets from the coastal enclave over the past few years.

The prime minister’s comments came hours after Israeli troops shot and killed an armed Hamas field commander as he approached the northern Gaza border, according to Palestinian media.

After the incident, the IDF admitted the shooting was an error, saying troops mistook the Hamas commander for a border infiltrator, when in fact he was attempting to stop two other Gazans from reaching the border.

The incident sparked new tensions, with Hamas officials calling to respond forcefully to the shooting.

“I am not going to hesitate to do what is necessary,” Netanyahu said in an apparent warning. “Election considerations do not guide me, but I want this city and the communities in the south to continue to develop and flourish, and for there to be a feeling and a reality of security.”

Netanyahu has frequently been attacked on the campaign trail over his Gaza policy, but has defended his actions saying it is in Israel’s interest to do everything possible to avoid a major military operation in the Strip.

Hamas leaders had already threatened in recent days to bring back the high level of violence along the border — regular riots, arson attacks and clashes — if Israel does not continue to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

Late last month, Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group reached a new ceasefire agreement, which was aimed at halting the launch of balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from the Strip into southern Israel and reining in the general level of violence along the border, in exchange for a number of economic concessions.

Since the truce went into effect, there has been a marked drop in the number of airborne arson attacks, though they have not stopped completely.

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