No diesel fuel or gas will enter the Gaza Strip as long as the violence in the Hamas-run enclave continues, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday.
“As long as the violence in the Gaza Strip does not stop completely, including the launching of incendiary devices and the burning of tires close to Israeli communities, the supply of fuel and gas to the Gaza Strip will not be resumed,” he tweeted on Saturday.
Liberman ordered the immediate halt to the transfer
of all fuel and gas – including that bought by Qatar – into the Gaza Strip following heavy rioting along the security fence on Friday. According to a statement released by his office, four Israeli diesel tankers entered the Gaza Strip shortly before the violent riots began along the border fence.
“Israel will not tolerate a situation in which fuel tankers are allowed to enter Gaza on the one hand, while terrorism and violence are used against IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens on the other,” the statement said.
“In addition, Hamas continues to welcome any terrorist attack and encourages the Palestinians, residents of the West Bank, to carry out attacks against Israeli citizens. In light of all this, Defense Minister Liberman decided to stop the flow of fuel to Gaza immediately.”
Qatari-bought fuel had been entering the Gaza Strip in recent days in an attempt to alleviate the conditions in the blockaded coastal enclave by powering Gaza’s sole power station. Israel has facilitated the delivery of thousands of liters of fuel, hoping that it would stem the weekly border clashes.
On Saturday, a number of infiltrations by Gazans into southern Israel were identified by IDF troops. A statement released by the military said that “all the suspicious individuals were monitored from the moment they crossed,” and that all had immediately returned to the Gaza Strip. One unarmed Palestinian man who crossed the perimeter fence from the northern part of the enclave was arrested moments later by troops who transferred him to security forces for questioning.
According to the IDF, some 20,000 Palestinians took part in riots along the border fence on Friday, throwing rocks, grenades, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices at troops, as well as burning tires and launching incendiary aerial devices into southern Israel.
The IDF responded to the violence and attempted sabotage of the fence with crowd dispersal techniques in accordance with open-fire regulations.
Three Palestinians were killed in one incident after several Gazans breached the security fence in the southern Strip, and set off a bomb which set a section of the fence on fire. Immediately afterwards, a group of 20 Palestinians was seen crossing the fence and approaching an IDF sniper position, leading troops to open fire and kill the three men. The others returned to the Strip.
The soldier who identified the incident, Sergeant Omer Kaplan of the Nesher Battalion's Combat Intelligence Corps was quoted by the military as saying that she spotted the first group cutting through the fence and placing a bomb, which when it exploded, covered the area in smoke allowing dozens to cross.
"Under the cover of the smoke and the violent rioting, a number of suspects attempted to approach the positions of our forces, but I identified them and told the troops who fired warning shots at them. While most of them turned back, I notice that one remained, but we then lost sight of him," she said adding that as she informed troops that there was definitely another terrorist, one of the soldiers identified him and neutralized him."
“This terrorist attempt that was thwarted by an IDF force in a professional and rapid manner prevented attacks against civilians and security forces,” read a statement released by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.
“The Hamas terrorist organization continues to lead to violent disturbances in an attempt to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. The IDF will not allow the fence to be turned into a zone of violence and subterranean warfare, and will continue to act to ensure the security of the residents of the State of Israel,” it added.
On Thursday, the military announced that it had destroyed a Hamas cross-border terror tunnel. The tunnel, which stretched from Khan Yunis to 200 meters inside Israel, was the fifteenth destroyed in the past year.
Palestinian Maan News Agency reported that seven Gazans were killed on Friday and another 112 injured by live bullets or tear gas. The fatalities were identified as Ahmad Ibrahim al-Tawil (27), Ahmad Abu Naim (17), Muhammad Ismail (29), Afifi Mahmoud Afifi (18), Muhammad Abbas (21), Tamer Abu Armaneh (22) and Abdullah al-Dughmeh (25), whose two brothers were also killed by Israeli fire.
Gaza’s Health Ministry has reported that more than 200 Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded since the outbreak of the Gaza border protests began on March 30. Those protests call for an end of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians have also been launching incendiary aerial devices into southern Israel from the coastal enclave, burning more than 2,800 hectares of agricultural fields, forests and nature reserves.
On Friday, heavy fires from the burning tires in the southern Gaza Strip near the Kerem Shalom crossing prompted authorities to deploy large fans in an attempt to clear the smoke. Another 10 fires from incendiary devices were extinguished by firefighters.
On Saturday, video showing members of the “Sons of Zouari” group circulated on social media showing several men launching a large incendiary blimp into Israel from the al-Bureij refugee camp. A message written in Arabic read “The return of the Zeppelin” and “if our fate is to be doomed to suffer, then we will not suffer alone” in Hebrew.
It is not clear if the device landed in Israel.
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