Israel vs. Hamas Q and A with Lt. Col. Yoni Chetboun

On Monday, a Gazan missile was shot into Israel, hitting a house in the town of Mishmeret and injuring seven people, including two children and an infant. This missile may have flown the farthest of any missile launched from Gaza yet; Mishmeret is located 75 miles away from the Gaza border, in central Israel.

The IDF carried out airstrikes in Gaza in response, including one that demolished the headquarters of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Afterwards, Hamas launched at least ten missiles into Israel, towards Sderot. Hamas claimed by the night that a ceasefire had been brokered by Egypt, though the IDF did not comment.

Yonatan “Yoni” Chetboun, author of the book Under Fire, is a former Member of Knesset and a decorated officer in the Israel Defense Forces who currently serves in the IDF as a lieutenant colonel. He is presently also preparing to run for mayor of Netanya and has an office that provides security advice.

Q: Are you heading towards Gaza right now?
A: No. They canceled our deployment and we’re waiting for further orders. Right now, the air force is doing their job, and the infantry is awaiting orders. I’m in a reserve battalion, so we have to wait at home until we’re given orders to deploy.

Q: When we went together to the Gaza border last winter, you told me that the next phase, the next war, the next campaign, will be different. Is it different or is Israel doing the same thing again?
A: When we spoke, we were discussing the IDF, which has plans and contingencies for all situations and eventualities—up to and including retaking the entire Gaza. However, choosing which plan to carry out is completely in the hands of Netanyahu and the government. Right now, the decision has been taken to carry out attacks through the air force, and I believe that the next step will be determined by Hamas. If they continue to fire missiles at Israel, I believe that the infantry will be ordered to enter Gaza.

Q: But not to recapture it.
A: That’s a political decision. When I speak to the media as a lieutenant colonel in the army (res.) and as a former MK, I speak about shlitah tzevai’t, which means to bring it under military control—as we did in Judea and Samaria during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Before that operation, the attitude of the Israeli government and even the IDF was that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria are Palestinian citizens, and there is no way for us to enter and defeat the terrorists. The result was that buses were exploding in the heart of Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim, and nearly every day brought a new bombing attack. Following the bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya on Pesach 2002, Israel made the decision to enter the Palestinian cities and neighborhoods, and when the IDF was allowed to go wherever necessary to do their jobs, the terrorists were defeated and things were mostly quiet for the next few years.

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