We reported over the weekend that Israel has mustered its largest build-up of tanks and armored personnel carriers since 2014 at a deployment area along the border with Gaza and that “all-out war” looks inevitable after weeks of heightened tensions with Hamas. This after special UN envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov late last week warned the UN Security Council that “we remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict.”
It now appears Israel is ready to act, as on Monday Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli parliament that he’s been left with “no choice” but to launch military action against Hamas militants. Last week rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip, with one landing dangerously near the densely populated city of Tel Aviv, and unrest along the border fence has continued largely unabated for months.
During his bellicose speech before lawmakers, Lieberman threatened invasion of Gaza: “Wars are only conducted when there is no choice, and now there is no choice,” the defense minister said. He indicated that anything less than the “toughest response” to Hamas is not being considered as Tel Aviv has “exhausted the other options.”
He said of protests which Israeli forces have somewhat routinely fired upon as Palestinians approach the fence and a security “no-go” zone: “There is no popular uprising,” and added, “There is violence organized by Hamas. Fifteen thousand people don’t come by foot to the border at their own will. They come by bus and are paid.”
Lieberman’s accusation that Hamas pays large sums to protesters comes as international human rights groups have frequently decried Israel’s lose of live ammo to stop protesters from approaching the fence, which have over the past six months resulted in dozens of Palestinian casualties.
The defense minister said further that Hamas “controls the levels of the flames,” but Israel can take deterrent and defensive measures, according to the Jerusalem Post. “I don’t believe in reaching an arrangement with Hamas,” he argued. “It hasn’t worked, doesn’t work and won’t work in the future.”
Last week tensions escalated further after Israel retaliated against Hamas rocket attacks on Wednesday by unleashing limited airstrikes on Gaza, which reportedly killed at least one Palestinian while injuring several more. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet on the same day of the Gaza rocket launches and promised to take “very strong action” if such attacks continued.
It does indeed look like broader military action is coming as a Reuters photographer had by the close of last week documented some 60 Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers stationed along the Gaza-Israel border – with that number likely growing since – which Reuters noted is the largest reported mustering of forces since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.