Hours before Israel accepted the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire deal on Monday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu traveled to the south to try to allay the fears of area residents.
It’s not at all clear how successful he was.
Residents of the communities bordering the Gaza Strip who evacuated their homes are skeptical of the IDF’s claims that it is safe for them to return.
In an interview with NRG website, Yael Paz-Lahiany, a mother of three young children from Kibbutz Nahal Oz just across the border from Gaza professed profound confusion and concern.
“I really don’t understand what is happening here and don’t know what to think. Just on Saturday we had 10 red alerts at Nahal Oz and I don’t know what to say. I also don’t understand what the prime minister said [Saturday].
“I just know that I am staying at Kibbutz Dorot, and here too they are operating on emergency footing, the nurseries are only partially open, and no one is going back to normal. So if 10 kilometers from Gaza they haven’t returned to their routine, how are we supposed to go back to our lives 800 meters from the wire?”
Israel’s operations in Gaza so far have been based on the hope that Hamas can be convinced to stand down.
Israel has destroyed its tunnels. The IDF killed hundreds of Hamas terrorists. The IDF destroyed Hamas’s bases.
Hamas’s missile arsenal is depleted. Its leaders are safe only so long as they remain hidden in their illegal bunkers under Shifa hospital. Hamas remains cash strapped and without access to resupply from Iran or other allies.
Assuming that Hamas maintains the 72-hour ceasefire that it requested, in negotiations that may ensue for a more detailed cease-fire agreement if the US is unable to coerce Israel and Egypt into agreeing to open the borders and save Hamas, Hamas will be destroyed through attrition.
If this happens, Israel will have won a great victory.
But if Hamas continues to attack southern communities at any level Israel will have no choice. It will have to send its forces back into Gaza with the mission of retaking control there.
There is only one thing worse than reasserting Israel’s military control over Gaza: Losing southern Israel. So long as residents of the south fear returning to their homes, Israel is losing southern Israel.
This looming prospect of having to retake Gaza would be bad enough if Israel only had to concern itself with Gaza. But Israel enjoys no such luxury.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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