As Gaza fighting rages, Netanyahu to attend first security briefing with PM Lapid

For the first time since he was ousted from the premiership in June 2021, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to receive a security briefing from Prime Minister Yair Lapid, ending his years-long boycott of standard procedure.

Amid the outbreak of violence in Gaza, Lapid on Saturday again invited the former prime minister to meet with military secretary Avi Gil “as required by law”, and Netanyahu accepted.

The Prime Minister’s Office later announced: “The exact time will be determined between the offices.”

On Friday, the Israel Defense Forces launched a major military operation against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza in response to what officials said was an ongoing “concrete” threat from PIJ to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers near the border.

While the law dictates that the opposition leader will receive security updates from the prime minister — a procedure that has been followed for years — Netanyahu has refused to comply with protocol for the past year, regularly railing against the legitimacy of the current coalition government.

Netanyahu on Friday tweeted his support for the military in its efforts against terrorists in Gaza, though he made no mention of Israel’s political leaders.

Then Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a meeting with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar (R), his military secretary Avi Gil and other security officials, on April 2, 2022. (Shin Bet)

Israeli leaders have said the operation was necessary after the PIJ refused to backtrack from its intentions to launch attacks on the Gaza border.

After Israel’s inaugural attacks, Islamic Jihad began firing heavy rockets at Israeli communities in southern and central Israel, with rocket fire continuing until Saturday afternoon.

On Saturday, a street in Ashkelon, a house in Sderot and a factory in a town close to the border were hit by rockets without injuries. Three people, including two soldiers, were also slightly injured in a separate mortar bombing near a town in the Eshkol Regional Council.

The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon said it had treated 20 people so far during the rocket attacks on southern Israel, including 15 people who were slightly injured after falling over while running for air raid shelters, and another five people because of fear.

The latest data from the IDF on Saturday afternoon estimates the number of rockets launched by the PIJ at Israel at 361, of which 70 fell short in the Gaza Strip.

The military said the Iron Dome missile defense system had shown a 95 percent success rate in intercepting projectiles fired into populated areas.

Lapid spoke to leaders of southern communities on Saturday afternoon, briefing them on the operation and emphasizing the need for residents to abide by the IDF Home Front Command’s instructions.

In a briefing to reporters Saturday morning, military spokesman Ran Kochav said the IDF had hit about 40 Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, including six weapons factories, two weapons depots, six observation posts and five missile launch positions.

Later on Saturday, the IDF said it had hit several more PIJ sites, as well as a terror cell en route to launch mortars into cities in southern Israel.

The IDF said there are currently “no negotiations underway” to end the violence.

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