Finance Minister Yair Lapid admitted Monday that the government and military may have erred in telling residents of the Gaza Belt communities to go back to their homes, before ending the threat posed by Hamas.
In a visit to Sderot, Lapid said, “The first role of the government is to provide security for the residents of Sderot and the Gaza Belt. It may have been a little too early to declare that quiet was restored, when it hadn't been.
"The proper combination of a diplomatic effort and military prowess will assure the quiet of the area's residents,” he stated.
"We will continue to hunt down Mohammed Deif and his friends,” he vowed. “We will hunt them down for what they did to their surroundings.”
Deif is the head of Hamas's armed wing.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has come under fire for telling Gaza Belt residents that they could go back to their homes last week, during one of the lulls in the fighting. Shortly afterward, Hamas started lobbing rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel again, thus deepening the feelings of frustration and betrayal by residents toward the military and government. Gaza Belt residents are particularly vulnerable to Hamas attacks since they are within mortar shell range of Gaza, and since the attack tunnels dug by Hamas open up in their vicinity.
The Israeli delegation to ceasefire talks landed in Cairo in the early afternoon, where it will discuss a prolonged ceasefire. The team includes Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen; Netanyahu confidant Attorney Yitzchak Molho; Amos Gilad, Head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomacy-Security Staff; IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai, and Head of Planning Department, Major General Nimrod Shefer.