Leaders of Israeli cities and towns near the Gaza border on Friday criticized the government over an apparent ceasefire with Hamas and called for a long-term solution, after a two-day bout of violence saw the heaviest exchange of fire between Israel and the Gaza terrorist organization since the 2014 war.
Hours after fighting grounded to a halt, local officials called on the government to secure a permanent end to rocket fire from the Palestinian coastal enclave, whether by military or diplomatic means.
Residents of southern Israel for several months have been rattled by a series of one or two-day rounds of fighting between Hamas and Israel, sending them scrambling to their bomb shelters and raising fears of war. In all cases, violence later subsided under ceasefires negotiated by Egypt and the UN, before resuming weeks later.
Alon Davidi, the mayor of Sderot, which suffered the brunt of the rocket fire from Gaza, said the effective truce was a “mistake” and that the IDF must decisively curb attacks on Israel through military action.
“I understand the desire to enter negotiations, but in my opinion the ceasefire is a mistake,” Davidi said. “We need to a military operation to eradicate this terror. The intermittent war is unhealthy for us and unhealthy for the State of Israel.”
The Hamas terror group said a ceasefire had been reached “on the basis of mutual calm” and went into effect at midnight. It said the deal was mediated by Egypt and other regional players.
Alon Davidi, mayor of the southern Israeli city of Sderot, attends a press conference in Jerusalem, March 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Israel denied there was a truce, but a senior Israeli official told Israel Radio that “quiet would be met with quiet.” There were no instances of violence reported along the border overnight.
Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council adjacent to the Gaza border, said that he hoped the sides would reach a permanent solution.
“This drawn-out reality of four months of security tension reached its climax yesterday,” he said. “We went through a day of heavy firing on our towns, we had to stop educational activities as well as cultural and communal events. In the past few hours there is quiet and we hope that the recent tension was ‘going up for the sake of coming down,’ and afterwards we will have an agreement which will guarantee quiet for the long term.”
He said the uncertainty was taking its toll on the local population.
Gadi Yarkoni (R) of the Eshkol Regional Council (Facebook)
“The events of the past few months and the sharp transitions from calm to emergency have a serious impact on the residents of the Gaza periphery.”
Tamir Idan, head of the Sdot Negev Regional Council in southern Israel, also said the reported ceasefire was a mistake.
“If we are really talking about a ceasefire, which has not yet been officially confirmed, it is in my opinion a serious mistake, creating a framework in which we have a new normality whereby Hamas controls the fire and decides when to end it,” he said, according to a Walla news report.
“We expect sharp, harsh and unequivocal action against Hamas which will end the terror in all its forms immediately, and which will allow the residents of the Gaza periphery to return to normal like all other citizens,” he added.
The leaders of Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, adjacent to the border, said the ceasefire was “simply an embarrassment” and made a mockery of those who lived in the area.
“The place looks like a ghost town this morning,” the council head said. “Because of irresponsible announcements like these most of the families have fled. Only the farmers remain, who cannot leave, and they’ve been told that if they work it will be their responsibility — as if they have any choice — because from their perspective it is do or die.”
On Friday morning, the IDF Home Front Command announced that all security restrictions in southern Israel had been lifted.
The reported ceasefire on Thursday came just an hour after the security cabinet completed a four-hour meeting on Gaza, instructing the military to “continue acting forcefully” against terror groups in the Strip,
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Thursday that Gaza terror groups have fired about 150 rockets at Israel in the past 24 hours, while Israel has struck some 140 Hamas targets in Gaza.
He said the rocket that landed in Beersheba — some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Gaza border– required a more powerful, longer-range rocket, marking a significant escalation in violence.
Agencies contributed to this report.