Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw his support behind the IDF’s early-morning aerial attack Monday against a Hamas compound in the northern Gaza Strip.
IDF snipers recorded on video opening fire on what seems to be an unarmed protester on the Gaza border
“We have a simple and clear rule that we constantly act on,” Netanyahu said during a visit to the southern town of Sderot, which has been under rocket attack from Palestinians in Gaza for over 16 years. “Strike at those who rise up to strike against you.”
On Monday, Israeli television stations broadcast a video that appeared to show soldiers using their mobile phones to film through a sniper scope. They are heard cheering when the sniper makes the shot, with one of them saying of the Palestinian who had been shot: “Son of bitch.”
The IDF said it was investigating the film but said it appeared to have been taken a few months ago.
On Sunday, the IDF thwarted a Palestinian terror attack along Israel’s border fence with Gaza. It said a “terror squad” had attempted to infiltrate the barrier by placing a number of homemade explosive devices in the sand next to it. The IDF published photos of the homemade bombs on its Twitter feed.
The IDF said it attacked the Hamas compound in response to that attempted infiltration. It is the first time Israel has launched an aerial attack against Gaza since the popular Palestinian protest along the border began on March 30th. Until Monday, it relied on sniper fire and riot dispersal methods to repel continued attempts by Palestinians to cross the border into Israel.
Netanyahu said: “We will not let those on the Gaza border, within touching distance, strike us. We will strike them.”
The IDF said it viewed “with great severity any attempt to damage the security fence or security infrastructure and would not allow the region to become a combat zone... Hamas is responsible for all events originating from the Gaza Strip and their consequences.”
The Palestinians have portrayed the Friday marches as nonviolent protests for freedom, with protesters intent on returning to the sites of Palestinian villages within sovereign Israel that were destroyed during the 1948 War of Independence.
Israel views the march as a violent assault on its internationally recognized border and has published photos of Palestinians burning tires, throwing Molotov cocktails and cutting through the barrier.
Since the start of the protest, Israel has fatally shot 32 Palestinians who were near the barrier and who, in some cases, had broken through it.
On Monday, 45-year-old Marwan Qudeih died of wounds he sustained on March 30 in the area of the border near Khan Yunis, Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the coastal enclave, said in a text message. According to the Hamas-linked Voice of al-Aqsa radio station, he was shot by the IDF.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday accused Israel of “indiscriminate use of force” and backed a call made 10-days ago by UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres for an independent and transparent investigation. Russia also called for a renewal of “concrete political efforts” to reach an Israeli-Palestinian accord.
France said it “reiterates its disapproval of the Israeli army’s indiscriminate shooting. Full light must be shed on these serious events.”
The French statement called on Israel “to show the utmost restraint and emphasized that the use of force must be proportionate, in accordance with international humanitarian law, in order to avoid further casualties.”
Turkey, too, joined the chorus, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemning Israel, including the IDF’s fatal shooting Friday of a Palestinian photojournalist.
“We expect the international community to take a joint stance against Israel, which, despite repeated warnings, tramples international law in an aggressive manner and does not even hesitate to target journalists in the line of duty,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
Israel did not respond to either the Russian or French statements. One diplomatic official said the Turkish statement was “yet another example of outrageous Turkish hypocrisy.” Turkey has thrown dozens of journalists into jail – some for life – since an attempted coup there two years ago.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum posted a repose to the Israeli air strike on the official Hamas website:
“The Israeli bombardment of resistance positions in Gaza reflects the deep internal crisis and the state of confusion the Zionist entity is experiencing over the success of the Palestinian masses in the 'March of Return and Breaking the Siege' in shattering its standing and scandalizing its crimes, and developing tools of confrontation and popular struggle. The Zionist enemy wants this escalation to cause confusion in order to cover up for its crisis and crimes at the expense of innocent demonstrators, including killing children and journalists. This will only make our Palestinian people more insistent on continuing these activities and confrontations until its rights are achieved and its suffering is ended.”
Also on Monday, Netanyahu met with the families of the two IDF soldiers – Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul – whose bodies are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He was accompanied by Yaron Bloom, the official in the Prime Minister’s Office charged with efforts to win the return of the bodies, as well as the release of two live Israelis being held by Hamas.
Netanyahu and Bloom briefed the families on efforts, both overt and covert, to bring the bodies of the soldiers and the two civilians – Avraham Mengistu and Hishal al-Sayed – back home. Netanyahu met with the Mengistu and Sayed families in December.Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.