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Report: Israel army under ‘pressure’ from politicians over Gaza protests

Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli forces at the Gaza-Israel border, as they take part in the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip on 14 September 2018 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Israeli forces fire tear gas at Palestinians as they took part in the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip on 15 September 2018 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Israeli defence officials are feeling “pressure” from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ministers over ongoing protests in the occupied Gaza Strip, reported Haaretz.

According to the report, defence officials told the security cabinet yesterday “that it does not believe a large-scale conflict in the Gaza Strip is necessary”, following aggressive rhetoric and threats by Netanyahu and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The unnamed officials referred to “pressure from politicians to do something” about the Great Return March protests at the Gaza perimeter fence.

Haaretz stated that the army’s Southern Command is preparing for soldiers to “respond more forcefully” at the fence, and that “the no-entry area” could be “enlarged”.

However, in contrast to the language from ministers, the military has reportedly “not altered its decision to try to avoid being dragged into a military confrontation before the end of 2019”, by which time the new fence and underground barrier are expected to have been completed.

Read: Israel’s Bennett wants ‘shoot to kill’ policy in Gaza

One senior defence official, addressing the possibility that Israel’s political leadership would order a large-scale assault on the Gaza Strip, “argued that the conditions in Gaza would make it difficult for Israel to fight without being barraged by international criticism”.

The official noted that

the Gaza health system is on the verge of collapse and aid groups can barely help those in need, which means that fighting now in Gaza would lead to a serious humanitarian crisis there, limiting Israel’s room to manoeuvre vis a vis the international community.

In addition, “defence sources” cited by the paper “expressed surprise” at Lieberman’s “conditioning the resumption of fuel deliveries on total quiet”.

“These sources say that his remark puts both Israel and Hamas in a position from which it will be difficult to actually achieve an agreement”, the Haaretz report added.

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