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April 25, 2021 2:41 pm

Israeli Defense Minister Gantz Tells Security Establishment to Maintain Readiness, IDF Chief of Staff Tours Gaza Border Area After Weekend Rocket Fire

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avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

An IDF soldier stands next to an Iron Dome aerial defense battery, near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, July 27, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday ordered all branches of the security establishment to maintain readiness for possible further escalation on the Gaza front after a weekend of rocket fire, while IDF Chief of Staff Avi Kochavi toured the Gaza border area and met with the heads of the Southern Command and local leaders.

Forty rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel over the weekend, followed by Israeli retaliatory strikes against the terror group Hamas, which rules the Strip.

Israeli news site Walla reported that, at a meeting held at Israel’s defense headquarters in Tel Aviv, Gantz told Kochavi and his subordinates, as well as the head of the Shin Bet and other security officials, that Israel must maintain force readiness and make preparations for the home front in the event of further escalation.

He also emphasized the maintenance of close contact with local officials and regional councils in the Gaza border area.

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He sent a further message to the Palestinians, saying that Israel respects freedom of worship for all communities, but will do whatever is necessary to protect its citizens — an apparent reference to recent Arab violence near the Old City of Jerusalem.

On Saturday, following the rocket fire, Gantz said that if calm in the south does not continue, “Gaza will be severely damaged … and the leaders of Hamas will bear the responsibility.”

Kochavi completed his tour of the Gaza border area in the late afternoon, Walla reported. He met with senior officers in the Southern Command and the Gaza Division and received an update on the security situation as it currently stands, including readiness for further incidents.

He also met with local and regional council leaders, and conveyed messages of reassurance and his desire for the area to return to normal routine. He emphasized that the rocket fire was motivated by the outbreaks of violence in Jerusalem, and not by any events in the border area.

The local leaders expressed frustration at the ongoing missile threat from Gaza, and said that it is having a particularly harmful effect on the area’s children.

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