Gal­lant: Ha­mas has no mil­i­tary so­lu­tion

‘Give us flow­ers you will get candy. Give us rock­ets, you will get bombed’

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By ANNA AHRONHEIM

Is­rael wants only three things from Gaza: quiet, de­mil­i­ta­riza­tion and the ter­ror group tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the coastal en­clave, Hous­ing Min­is­ter and for­mer IDF south­ern com­man­der Yoav Gal­lant told The Jerusalem Post.

“We must look for­ward. We, on one hand, need to make sure that Ha­mas doesn’t get stronger and on the other hand, we must make sure the peo­ple of Gaza get proper hu­man­i­tar­ian aid,” said Gal­lant, who is also a mem­ber of the se­cu­rity cabi­net, told the Post in his Jerusalem of­fice ahead of the pa­per’s an­nual Diplo­matic Con­fer­ence.

The Gaza Strip, which has been dev­as­tated fol­low­ing sev­eral con­flicts with Is­rael, is fac­ing what the United Na­tions said could re­sult in a “cat­a­strophic” hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis. The 11-year-long block­ade has caused Gazans to be de­prived of ba­sic com­modi­ties such as food, fuel, medicine or enough wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties when the power is off.

The vi­o­lent ri­ots along the Gaza se­cu­rity fence, which be­gan in March, has led to 219 Pales­tinian fa­tal­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to the Pales­tinian Health Min­istry. It has also led to fears of an­other mil­i­tary oper­a­tion against Ha­mas to re­store the quiet seen in the four years since Oper­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge.

“Th­ese are Pales­tinian provocations which say, ‘We are ready to spill our blood in or­der for the world to wake up,’” said Gal­lant, who was the head of the South­ern Com­mand from 2006 to 2008. He added that “the bor­der protests led to only Pales­tini­ans deaths.”

“Ha­mas has no real mil­i­tary so­lu­tion,” Gal­lant said, ex­plain­ing that Is­rael has shut off the Ha­mas-run coastal en­clave from ev­ery an­gle, thus im­pos­ing a land and sea block­ade and de­stroy­ing un­der­ground cross-bor­der at­tack tun­nels. Launch­ing rock­ets to­ward Is­rael has also be­come much harder for Ha­mas and other ter­ror groups due to Is­rael’s Iron Dome mis­sile de­fense sys­tem.

Ac­cord­ing to Gal­lant, Ha­mas then re­sorted to fire ter­ror and the weekly vi­o­lent bor­der protests.

While no Is­raeli civil­ian has been killed due to the vi­o­lence along the fence, the first Is­raeli sol­dier to be killed on the Gaza front in four years oc­curred dur­ing one of th­ese protests when he was hit with a high-pow­ered ri­fle. An­other IDF sol­dier was badly in­jured by an­other sniper in the same area days later in an am­bush. Sev­eral other IDF sol­diers were in­jured by ex­plo­sive de­vices planted along the fence.

But af­ter months of weekly vi­o­lent ri­ots along the Gaza se­cu­rity fence and dozens of rock­ets and mor­tars fired into Is­raeli ter­ri­tory, ef­forts to craft a long-term cease-fire agree­ment be­tween Is­rael and Ha­mas are seem­ingly within grasp.

And with a de­crease in vi­o­lence in re­cent weeks and thanks to a steady sup­ply of fuel to Gaza paid for by Qatar, Pales­tinian res­i­dents have be­gun to re­port of an in­crease in elec­tric­ity sup­ply to as much as 12 to 16 hours a day, al­most dou­ble the daily aver­age Gazans saw over the past year, when elec­tric­ity was lim­ited to be­tween four and six hours.

But, Gal­lant stressed, Is­rael is not re­spon­si­ble for the sit­u­a­tion in the coastal en­clave.

“We didn’t choose Ha­mas. The peo­ple of Gaza chose Ha­mas and it is Ha­mas hold­ing them hostage, not us,” the min­is­ter said. “We left Gaza 13 years ago, have they built one school? No. They built tun­nels and rock­ets and con­tin­ued in­creas­ing their ter­ror ac­tiv­i­ties. Gaza is be­ing held hostage by a ter­ror group. There’s no free­dom. There’s noth­ing dif­fer­ent than North Korea. It’s the same thing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Gal­lant, there is no group or in­di­vid­ual who could take over from Ha­mas, not even the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity “who likes us to fight for them, to sac­ri­fice our sol­diers for them.”

Nev­er­the­less, he stressed, no side wants war. Is­rael also does not want to re­turn to Gaza, nor does it want to re­oc­cupy the Strip.

“Who­ever wants to re­oc­cupy Gaza needs to think of the con­se­quences,” he said, ex­plain­ing that Is­rael must “strengthen the sit­u­a­tion and not de­stroy it. As long as Ha­mas keeps Gaza hostage, the first and only so­lu­tion is to make sure the hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion is okay.”

“If you give us flow­ers you will get candy,” Gal­lant said. “But if you give us rock­ets, you will get bombed.”

Gal­lant talks re­gional peace, Page 14

(Mo­hammed Salem/Reuters)

HA­MAS MEM­BERS train in Khan Yu­nis. ‘We left Gaza 13 years ago, have they built one school? No. They built tun­nels and rock­ets and con­tin­ued in­creas­ing their ter­ror ac­tiv­i­ties,’ Gal­lant says.

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