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Israel is planning 'large-scale military operation' in Gaza

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz blamed Hamas for recent events in Gaza [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 August, 2019

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Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel is preparing for a 'widespread operation' in the blockaded Gaza strip.
An Israeli minister said Monday that his cabinet is planning a "widespread operation" on the besieged Palestinian enclave Gaza, which has suffered a number of bloody assaults in recent years.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reshet Bet radio that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is acting "firmly but also wisely and carefully" on two fronts - Gaza and Iran's involvement in Syria.

"We are preparing for a widespread operation in Gaza, but we have another front - preventing Iran becoming settled in Syria. There we run hundreds of operations, both overt and covert," he said.

Steinitz, who sits on Israel's Security Cabinet and is in charge of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, added: "We have succeeded in preventing the establishment of an Iranian military base on the Golan Heights border."

Meanwhile, a joint statement released by Palestinian factions in Gaza described the besieged enclave as "a volcano that is about to erupt", Haaretz reported. 

Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, hours after three rockets were fired at Israel from the blockaded enclave.

Steinitiz, who blames Gaza's ruling party Hamas for Sunday's events, addressed the incident.

"These young people were eliminated even before they approached the fence. We also responded with bombing raids inside Gaza to make clear who was responsible. Israeli citizens can sleep peacefully."

Read also: Why is #MyPalestinianSitty trending?

Hamas in a statement called their deaths "another crime by the Israeli occupation to be added to its grim toll against the Palestinian people's rights, land and holy sites".

Netanyahu under pressure

A series of incidents along the Gaza border in recent days has tested a fragile truce between Hamas and Israel.

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired three rockets at Israel late Saturday, two of which were intercepted.

On Friday night, a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel and was intercepted by missile defence systems.

Israel said in response it carried out strikes on two Hamas "underground targets" in the northern and central Gaza Strip, without providing further details.

Netanyahu is widely seen as wanting to avoid an escalation in the Gaza Strip before 17 September elections, but he also faces heavy political pressure to respond firmly.

Steinitz addressed the opposition party Blue and White in his radio comments, saying: "None of the former generals had a long-term solution to the Gaza problem – and they still don't."

"When we try to reach a long-term arrangement, we demand peace for the Gaza envelope settlements and the return of Israeli prisoners and bodies. But the fact is that Israel has never been able to prevent terror [in Gaza]."

On Sunday, US President Donald Trump said that he would release details of his much-touted "Deal of the Century" peace plan - which Palestinians have rejected as being likely too biased towards Israel - after the Israeli elections.

"We will probably wait for the release of the Middle East peace plan until after the Israeli elections," Trump told reporters, adding that he might "release small parts of it beforehand".

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, ruled by Islamist movement Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008.

Since March 2018, regular protests and clashes have erupted along the border of the blockaded coastal enclave.

At least 305 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza or the border area since then, the majority during demonstrations and clashes.

Seven Israelis have also been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same period.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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