Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stepped up their threats and warned Hamas on Sunday of a “fearsome blow” if quiet did not return to the Gaza border, but the security cabinet met without publicly issuing any new directives regarding Gaza.
If Hamas does not stop its violent attacks against Israel, then Israel will stop them through forceful actions, Netanyahu warned at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
Commenting on the increase in violence along the border fence with Gaza, Netanyahu said, “Hamas has apparently not internalized the message: if they don’t stop the violent attacks against us, they will be stopped in a different way and it will be painful, very painful.”
Israel is “very close to a different type of action, action that will include very forceful blows,” Netanyahu said. He said that if Hamas were smart, “they would stop the fire and the violent riots – now.”
Members of the security cabinet, which generally meets every Sunday afternoon, were briefed on the situation in the south. The ministers reportedly want to wait until the weekend before deciding on a response, in order to see if UN and Egyptian mediating efforts might make a difference.
After the meeting, a false statement was issued in the name of the security cabinet which then made the rounds on social media saying that the body “instructed the IDF to deliver a harsh and painful blow on terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip. From this moment on, every terrorist act from the Gaza Strip will be met with great force and targeted assassinations of the terror leaders.”
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a quick denial, putting out a “clarification” that no statement came out of the security cabinet meeting.
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Around the time when the security cabinet was meeting, an IDF aircraft attacked a cell of terrorists launching incendiary balloons from the northern Gaza Strip into Israel, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. The action came as four fires were set near the border by incendiary balloons.
Earlier in the day, the defense minister said in an Arabic Facebook post that Hamas is holding Gaza residents hostage on behalf of Iran, and he appealed to Palestinians to overthrow the terror organization’s rule over the small enclave.
“I call on you, residents of Gaza: Act against the extremist leadership that has taken you hostage in the service of the Iranian ayatollahs,” Liberman said.
His works were posted on “el-Munasek,” the Arabic-language Facebook page of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun.
Liberman explained to the two million Palestinians in Gaza that he had halted the transfer of all fuel into the Gaza Strip in direct response to Hamas violence against Israel on Friday.
In a KAN Bet interview soon after the security cabinet meeting, Liberman said that Israel does not need to re-occupy the Gaza Strip, and can deliver a very forceful blow without having to occupy the coastal strip which “nobody wants or needs.”
He provided no details of what took place or was decided in the security cabinet.
But, Liberman said, the large-scale riots along the Gaza border fence over the last two weeks necessitates a “re-evaluation” of the situation.
“We now need to think, and I hope the other side will think very well,” he said.
Liberman noted that since the rioting along the fence began on March 30
, 216 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 6,000 wounded. Seven Palestinians were killed on Friday, four of whom he said were clearly members of Hamas’s military wing, whose identities are known.
By comparison to the Palestinians killed and wounded, he said, no Israeli civilian has been hurt.
Liberman said that his message to residents of the south was that “we are doing everything to return complete quiet to the residents of the border communities and the residents of Israel.” He added that he understands the difficulties facing the residents of the south.
“I said from my first day in office as Defense Minister that Israel does not have the luxury of embarking on wars of choice,” Liberman said. “We will engage in wars of no-choice, when there is a wide consensus, and only after all the other options have been tried.”
Liberman said that he thinks Israel has tried all the other options in regards to Gaza.
“We have made all the efforts, turned over every rock in order to solve this in a different manner,” he said. “Nobody should have any illusions, not the head of Hamas or anyone else. We will give the hardest blow that we know how to give.”
With that, Liberman said, “if we see that the quiet has returned and there is an atmosphere of calm and security at the border with Gaza, then we have no interest in making things difficult for the Gaza residents. They say that each nation gets the government it deserves, I very much hope that the residents of Gaza get a better government than Hamas.”
In his Arabic Facebook post, Liberman told the Gazans,: “The State of Israel was prepared to improve the civilian reality in the Gaza Strip, but the decision of the Hamas leadership to use serious violence – especially on the same day in which tankers of diesel fuel were brought into the Gaza Strip – is what brought about the decision to cut off the supply of fuels. All of the responsibility for the deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip belongs to Hamas and Hamas alone.”
Last week Israel began to transfer Qatari-funded fuel into Gaza. The United Nations helped with the purchase transaction, bypassing for the first time the Palestinian Authority, which has handled such transactions in the past. Following Friday's violence, Israel halted the supply of the fuel.
The United Nations and Israel had hoped that the fuel would put a lid on some of the Gaza violence by easing humanitarian conditions in the Strip, where people are living on approximately four hours of electricity a day.
Qatar had agreed to fund six months of fuel purchases for the Gaza power plant. But on Friday, Palestinian rioters breached the Gaza fence and infiltrated into Israel, approaching an IDF sniper position. The IDF responded to the violent incidents, including with live fire, killing seven Palestinians.
In spite of the Gaza escalation, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot left for the United States to attend a global defense conference.
Regarding another issue – whether Israel has taken any action in Syria since the downing of the Russian intelligence plane last month that triggered a crisis between Moscow and Jerusalem – Liberman said in the KAN Bet interview, “just because you don’t hear anything, does not mean that nothing has happened.”
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