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Netanyahu, 'Security is Israel's top priority'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said security remains as Israel's top priority as cabinet ministers convened Sunday in the south near border with the Gaza Strip.
“This was, and remains, (restoring security to Israel's citizens) our supreme concern,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of a weekly cabinet meeting.
“We struck Hamas very hard. We hit their command centers and delivered blows that Hamas has not experienced since it was founded. At the same time, Hamas withdrew from all of its demands for a ceasefire with neither time constraints nor other conditions,” he added.
Netanyahu also seized the opportunity to announce a three-point plan to "rehabilitate and develop" the country's south.
“Our first decision will be to assist – with a 1.5 billion shekel (($419 million) five-year plan – Sderot and the communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip,” he said.
He said the intention is not only to rehabilitate agriculture and repair damage caused by the war but also the construction of additional security infrastructure.
Next month, he added, the cabinet will be asked to approve a similar plan to support all southern residents.
The second point, he said, would entail a request to the cabinet next month to approve a similar plan to support all the south.
The third one, he added, “is to fill in the gaps that have been created in security. This reflects our understanding about the order of priorities in security is first and foremost.”
The Israeli prime minister said he hopes the calm that has been restored will last for a long time.
However, he added, the government stands ready for any scenario - both in Gaza and other fronts, including the Golan Heights.
“We will continue in keeping with our Zionist heritage, to develop our communities and our cities. I use the word develop, not just rebuild, because we have already started to do that,” he said.
Earlier on Sunday, Israeli Haaretz daily reported that the Israeli cabinet would consider $561 million cuts from the 2014 budget to fund the cost of its recent military offensive on the Gaza Strip.
According to the Israeli newspaper, a plan to be presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Finance Minister Yair Lapid would entail a 2% cut in the base budget of every ministry, except the Defense Ministry. The plan aims for the immediate allocation of about 1.5 billion shekels ($419 million) to the Defense Ministry for some of the costs of the war, it added. The plan would still require the approval of the Knesset's Finance Committee even if it was passed by the cabinet on Sunday. Israel's latest 51-day offensive on the Gaza Strip left some 2,147 Gazans dead and 11,000 others injured – many critically – while partially or completely destroying thousands of buildings across the coastal enclave. The Israeli offensive - initially launched with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from Gaza. - finally ended with the announcement of an indefinite cease-fire that came into effect on Tuesday. Over the course of Israel's offensive, at least 72 Israelis – 67 soldiers and five civilians – were killed, according to Israeli figures. This is the highest military death toll for Israel since the 2006 war in Lebanon, in which 119 Israeli soldiers were killed.
By Turgut Alp Boyraz

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