Following a weekend of non-stop Qassam attacks on the western Negev, which also continued throughout the day Sunday, the defense minister called an emergency security consultation in his Tel Aviv office Sunday evening.
The meeting was attended by the establishment’s top brass including IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz. Military officials presented Peretz with a few game plans for Israeli responses to the incessant rocket barrages. Among those proposed was a plan to immediately intensify operations targeting Hamas, but Peretz opted not to adopt the suggestion.
During the consultation, Peretz said, “Over the last few days there has been a severe escalation in violence in the Strip, in which Hamas is taking a central and active part in firing rockets towards Gaza perimeter communities. As a result an Israeli citizen was severely wounded and a number of civilians were lightly wounded. An elementary school took a direct hit, and a rocket landed next to a kindergarten.”
Hamas man escapes IDF attack
Throughout the day Sunday, over 25 rockets hit Sderot and the surrounding communities. Over the weekly an additional 19 Qassams were fired at the western Negev.
At the conclusion of the consultation, Peretz instructed the IDF and security officials to complete all preparations necessary to take out all those involved in rocket fire if the attacks do not stop.
He later visited one of the Qassam victims at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.
“I am turning to (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas to act now to stop the shooting,” Peretz told reporters. “If the fire doesn’t stop, our response will be painful for all those involved. We held a security consultation, and we’re examining these incidents. No doubt the escalation by the terror organizations and Hamas demands we be prepared. We have plans. We have no intention of allowing the organizations to attacks without paying a price for harming Israeli citizens. I suggest all involved stop this rocket fire, whose singular purpose is to hurt civilians, children and women.”
“If the rocket fire continues,” Peretz warned, “no participant will be allowed to clear himself of responsibility by any means – not to those launching the rockets, nor those dispatching them, nor those planning on all levels. Israeli citizens will get every protection. We plan to operate towards complete quiet. Nothing will silence us, by any means.”
“I therefore instructed all involved. We have plans, we have means, and we will use them,” he said.
Meanwhile, a senior IDF official told Ynet that, “we are witnessing a significant change in Hamas; a change that is manifesting itself in the Qassam attacks on Israel. Many of the rockets fires on Israel in the last 24 hours belonged to the organization. This may lead to escalation and perhaps even the resumption of suicide bombings in Israel.
IDF Intelligence officers also foresee an escalation in violence, but others estimate that this escalation will be short-lived.
Since Sunday afternoon the IDF resumed targeting Hamas members in its reprisal for the Qassam barrages. In the early evening hours, a Hamas operative managed to escape a targeted assassination attempt by the Israeli Air Force.