TEL AVIV – Israel is readying itself for a large-scale military operation inside the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, but added that at the same time the country hoped to restore calm to residents in the south.
“Our policy is clear: we want to restore the calm, but at the same time we are preparing for a large-scale military operation, if such an action is required,” Netanyahu said after a security cabinet meeting at the IDF Gaza Division headquarters. “Those are my instructions to the army.”
Netanyahu, who was joined by other top political and defense officials, also invited local and regional council heads in the Gaza envelope to attend another meeting after the cabinet session. However, some of them boycotted the meeting while others walked out in protest, accusing the government of not taking care of the security needs in the south.
The head of the Eshkol region, Gadi Yarkoni, and the head of the Sh’ar Hanegev region, Ofir Libstein, both of whom are responsible for areas that have been hit the hardest by attacks from Gaza, walked out of the meeting when they saw that the heads of all southern municipalities were also in attendance.
“The prime minister had no intention of holding a special meeting on the Gaza envelope area as expected and as requested today,” they said in a joint statement. “We respect the heads of the local authorities in the south who are also dealing with difficult situations, but we are convinced beyond any doubt that the challenges, needs and realities in the Gaza vicinity are completely different from the other authorities.”
“We cannot accept this and so we will not take part,” they added.
Mayor Alon Davidi of Sderot — a town near the Gaza border that has sustained the heaviest rocket fire of all towns in the periphery — did not attend, but cited a previous commitment.
Netanyahu chastised the council heads for their response. “I am sorry that some regional council heads who always say that they’re not being listened to decided to leave when we specifically came to listen to them. But we will do what is needed for everyone,” the prime minister said.
Earlier this week, regional council heads announced they were preparing to file charges at the United Nations against the terror group Hamas for violating their human rights by allowing the continued launch of incendiary devices over the Gaza border into their communities.
Angered by the lack of response by Netanyahu, residents have decided to take matters into their own hands and explore their legal options at the UN, Israel’s Channel 12 news reported.