Israel responds to violent Gaza riots with new restrictions

Israel announced new Gaza restrictions on Saturday after Hamas intensified violent rioting along the border with Israel.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

In the face of intensifying Hamas-orchestrated violent rioting along the border, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the permissible zone for Gaza fishermen to be scaled down from nine to six nautical miles and threatened “additional steps if the violent incidents continue,” according to a statement by COGAT, the Israeli defense body that coordinates civil affairs for Gaza and Judea and Samaria.

Other measures could include more restrictions at Kerem Shalom, Gaza’s prime commercial crossing point and the only one with Israel.

Lieberman cited Friday’s violence on the fence dividing Gaza and Israel as contributing to his decision, in addition to the midweek beach protests in which fishing boats and protesters gather at the northwest end of the Gaza Strip where its sea and land barriers meet with Israel.

The Hamas terror group seized Gaza forcibly from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 in a violent coup after winning elections a year earlier. Since March, the group has incited violent rioting on a weekly basis, demanding an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that threatens to loosen the terror group’s iron grip over the territory.

Hamas accuses Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who governs Palestinian-controlled parts of Judea and Samaria, of thwarting regional efforts to reach a Gaza cease-fire that could ease the closure.

Hamas has in response escalated and intensified the riots recently, adding locations and leading night gatherings near the fence where activists use sound bombs and laser lights to distract soldiers.

Palestinians who participate in the riots attack soldiers with firearms, grenades, and Molotov cocktails, in addition to attempting to breach the security barrier and launching airborne incendiary devices, which have caused fires that have scorched thousands of acres of Israeli farmland and nature preserves.

During the riots, Hamas operatives also use Palestinian civilians as human shields, including minors.

On Friday, Israel said the rioters threw grenades at the soldiers and tore at parts of the fence with bolt cutters.