IDF and Israeli government officials are doing their best to convince southern residents that it’s safe now to return home to Gaza Belt communities.
But Hamas assurances that the terror group intends to resume its rocket and mortar fire promptly at 8 am Friday, combined with the limited technology that has made it impossible for the Code Red alerts to detect incoming mortar shelling from Gaza, raise serious questions in the minds of the residents who say they are the ones who are placing their lives and those of their children on the line.
A lot of Israelis are not buying the government reassurances; nearly 60 percent of those who live along the Gaza border, in fact, says Yair Farjun, head of the Ashkelon Coastal Region council.
Still, IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen. Benny Gantz gave it his best shot on Wednesday. Gantz told reporters at a briefing there is “devastation in Gaza, and guilt for the tragedy rests on Hamas leaders,” who he described as “hiding in their basements.”
Gantz stressed that although some 30,000 reservists had been discharged and were returning to their homes, some 55,000 IDF soldiers were still remaining in a staging area outside the Gaza border.
“I am convinced the residents can return to their houses, work their fields, live well here just as it was before,” he said. “Just as there was peace here before, it will be even quieter after,” he sought to reassure.
“The IDF is not going anywhere. It remains to protect people, to do what is necessary, to seek the next challenge. Together with our citizens we will continue to improve security in this area,” he said.
Hamas officials in Cairo threatened Wednesday night to resume rocket fire at 8 am on Friday unless there is “significant progress” in the cease fire negotiations, Israel’s Channel 10 reported Thursday.
Israel reportedly offered generous terms in the talks, according to an Egyptian source who spoke with a Hebrew-language Israeli newspaper. But Israeli representatives refused to compromisee on the issue of disarming terrorist groups in Gaza, the source said.