Lieberman to Gaza residents: Calm pays off, violence doesn't
Defense minister says Kerem Shalom crossing was reopened after 3 days without violent incidents on the border. 'The Gaza residents have something to gain when Israeli citizens enjoy quiet and security, and something to lose when this quiet is broken,' he tells them in special message.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman sent a message to Gaza residents on Wednesday morning after reopening the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
After a situation assessment the defense minister held Tuesday with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other defense heads, he decided to reopen the border crossing and expand the fishing zone off the coast of the strip back to a distance of 9 miles from the shore.
"I differentiate between the Hamas leadership and regular Gaza residents," he wrote on the Arabic Facebook page of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
"That is why I've decided to reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing and expand the fishing zone back to 9 miles as a clear message to the residents of the strip: Calm pays off and violence does not," he added. "The Gaza residents have something to gain when Israeli citizens enjoy quiet and security, and something to lose when this quiet is broken."
Kerem Shalom has been closed to most goods since July 9. Fuel has intermittently been banned during that time, including since August 2, though food and medicine has been allowed.
Last month, Israel also reduced the limits of the fishing zone it allows fishermen off the blockaded Gaza Strip to three nautical miles offshore.
"The residents of Gaza need to understand that the State of Israel is not the problem, but the solution. The problem is the Hamas leadership, which uses civilians as live ammunition and as a human shield," Lieberman charged.
Gaza border protests and clashes broke out on March 30 and have led to months of tension that have also seen several military flare-ups.
Israel has also been seeking to stop kites and balloons carrying firebombs over the border fence to burn Israeli farmland.
Lieberman said the past four days have been "the most quiet since March 30."
A fragile truce came into effect Thursday night, mediated by Egypt and the UN, according to a source close to the negotiations.
Thursday saw extensive Israeli air strikes in retaliation for the launching of more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds by Hamas and its allies beginning on Wednesday night.
Three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, including a mother and her 18-month-old daughter, while seven Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire as hundreds took refuge in bomb shelters.
It was one of the most serious escalations since the 2014 Gaza war and followed months of rising tensions.
"Last week, the IDF delivered a serious blow to Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, only after having wiped off a Hamas internal security headquarters building and after a violent Friday on the border fence—during which three were killed and dozens wounded—did the quiet return to the Gaza border," Lieberman said.
The defense minister talks about what was before and what could be again, to further demonstrate his claim that violence does not pay off.
"I want to remind you that before the Oslo Accords, some 90,000 Gazans worked in Israel and there were some 80 factories in the Erez and Karni industrial areas," he continued. "We hope for you, Gaza residents, that all of Hamas's budgets and the funds from the international community are allocated to your well being and to the development of the strip, instead of to terrorism. Gaza has the potential of become the Singapore of the Middle East. It'll be good for the residents of Gaza, it'll be good for Israel, and for the entire region."
There have been efforts by United Nations officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, though Israeli officials have not commented on them.
Lieberman stressed that any long-term deals between Hamas and Israel "primarily have to include an agreement about the MIAs and POWs," but noted that what mattered was "not the proposals, but the reality on the ground. No one should have any doubt: We will do everything to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens; and if Hamas turns to violence again, we will respond immediately and more harshly than in the past."
Education Minister Naftali Bennett slammed Lieberman for easing some of the restrictions on Gaza, as did the family of Hadar Goldin, an IDF soldier killed in 2014 in Gaza and whose remains are held by Hamas.
"730 trucks will pass through Kerem Shalom today on their way to Hamas in Gaza. Can you please ask (Prime Minister) Netanyahu and the Cabinet ministers what Israel is getting in return? And did it even ask for something?" the Goldin family said in a statement.
AFP contributed to this story.