Hamas rulers react to Israeli cut-off of fuel, gas and consumer goods to the coastal enclave after arson terrorism and rocket fire continues.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Calling the most recent Israeli efforts to pressure Hamas activists to stop their rocket and arson attacks “vindictive” and a “war crime,” Gaza’s Hamas leadership threatened “severe consequences” for the Jewish state Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week that the only commercial crossing into the Strip would be closed, except for humanitarian supplies on a case-by-case basis, and that the permitted fishing zone would revert to its regular six-mile limit from a temporary increase to nine miles since April.
The move came in response to Hamas followers sending thousands of incendiary kites and balloons, causing millions of shekels of damages.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, since the beginning of the current wave of Hamas terror, which began on March 30, 417 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel, of which 200 were fired over the past weekend.
Over 900 arson attacks took place, with an average over eight daily, and 30,000 dunams (7,400 acres) of land were burned, including 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) of wheat fields and 11,000 dunams (2,700 acres) of nature preserves.
The Iron Dome system intercepted over 30 of the 200 rockets and mortars fired over the weekend, but several landed within Jewish communities; three people were injured by shrapnel. The IDF responded by bombing dozens of targets in the Strip.
A tenuous ceasefire was reportedly reached through the Egyptians, but then another shell landed Monday in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, and more fire balloons and kites set fields and brush aflame.
The Israeli reaction was swift this time, adding another level of sanctions to those already imposed.
Liberman: ‘The IDF is ready’
“Due to continued attempts to carry out terror by the Hamas terror organization, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has decided, on the advice of the chief of staff, to close the Kerem Shalom crossing to fuel and gas until next Sunday,” the Defense Ministry announced in a statement Monday night. Moreover, Israel decided to narrow the fishing zone even more, to a range of three nautical miles.
After Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that Israel “will never succeed in influencing national positions regarding the continuation of the resistance,” Liberman shot back during a Tuesday visit to an army exercise in the south.
“The IDF is ready for any task we give it,” he said on Kan News. “If we have to go to battle, we can conquer the enemy. The IDF knows what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. We – and nobody else – will set the rules of the game.”
Also according to the report, the London-based Al-Hayyat paper said that Nikolai Mladenov, UN Special Envoy to the Middle East, had passed on to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh a warning from Israel that if the launching of incendiary kites and balloons continues, a fourth full-fledged war with Gaza will ensue.