'Hamas is strategically challenged'

IDF commander says situation in Gaza will improve after Hamas returns captive Israelis, fallen soldiers' bodies.

Yoni Kempinski,

Eyal Zamir
Eyal Zamir
Avi Ohayon/GPO/FLASH90

Major General Eyal Zamir, who heads the IDF's Southern Command, said that improving the situation in Gaza depends on the return of Israelis, including soldiers killed in action whose bodies are being held by Hamas.

Speaking at the Sderot Conference for Society, Zamir warned Hamas not to become closer to Iran and Hezbollah. Such a connection between the Hamas terror organization and Iran and Hezbollah would be seen as another tool with which to harm Israel, and as something "characteristic of Hamas' strategic confusion."

Noting that Israel must be prepared for every possible threat, Zamir said, "We need to improve our operational abilities, and be ready for war. The threat is morphing quickly, and ours is a responsible leadership which is navigating complex threats, many challenges, and dealing with terror organizations."

Zamir also noted that Hamas uses disturbances of order for terror activities.

"Just two weeks ago, an explosive was planted in order to harm IDF soldiers," he said. "This is another proof that Hamas uses civilians and planned disturbances which occur every week near the Gaza border, as a cover for creating terror attacks, and to distract [Gaza's] citizens from the [organization's] many failures."

"We will continue to deal determinedly with disturbances, and every effort on Hamas' part to bring masses to the border fence in order to cover the organization's own failures will be met with a very firm response form our forces."

Regarding the situation in Gaza itself, Zamir said, "Improvement in the situation of Gaza's citizens is dependent on the return of the missing Israelis and the IDF soldiers who are being held by Hamas."

Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed are believed to be alive and held by Hamas.

IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul were killed during 2014's Operation Protective Edge, and their bodies, held by Hamas, have not yet been returned to Israel for burial.