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Netanyahu: Israel Trying to Avoid Escalation and Prevent Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

Israel is trying both to avoid an escalation with Hamas and to prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli diplomatic reporters.

While the prime minister didn’t discount the possibility that Hamas might eventually force Israel into an all-out war, he argued that Israel’s interests were to accept whatever international mediation and assistance is available to forestall such an outcome, The Times of Israel reported Monday.

“We are acting first of all to protect Israel from infiltration by people who come to harm us — our soldiers and our communities — and who want to cross the border and kill our civilians and soldiers. We have prevented it thus far,” Netanyahu told the reporters in his office.

“On the other hand, we’re trying to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza,” he said. To prevent such a crisis, the prime minister indicated that Israel was willing to accept the participation of the United Nations, Egypt or other Arab nations to assist in reducing the tensions.

On Tuesday, Egyptian intelligence officials were reported to be in the Gaza Strip attempting to negotiate a ceasefire. The latest negotiations follow a reported demand by Hamas that Israel allow Qatar to send $15 million in cash to Gaza every month in order to maintain quiet on the border.

According to Israel’s Hadashot news show, Israeli officials have rejected the demand. However, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has reportedly informed the Egyptians that the terror group expects the first installment of cash on Thursday.

Last week, Israel allowed shipments of fuel to Gaza from Qatar to resume after it stopped them in response to a rocket attack that severely damaged a house in Beersheba.

Despite Israel’s relaxation of restrictions, on Friday night 30 rockets were fired into Israel.

“We hold Hamas responsible for everything coming from Gaza,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said of the barrage. “All violence and provocations are Hamas’s responsibility. The humanitarian improvements made recently should have caused Hamas to rein in the terror, but it allows a violent atmosphere to continue.”

[Photo: Commander, U.S. Naval Forces / Flickr ]