Israel warns of ‘much harsher’ response if Gaza riots continue

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned on Sunday that Israel will use harsher measures if Gaza Palestinians resume violent protests on the border.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

Israeli officials say that the vast majority of Palestinian protesters on Friday were Hamas activists that are on the terror groups’ payroll. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman claimed on Sunday that as many as 90% of the estimated 40,000 rioters were paid activists, including known terrorists. Sixteen Palestinians were reportedly killed in clashes with IDF troops deployed along the border.

Liberman rejected international calls for an inquiry into the clashes and denounced Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg for joining calls for a probe. Zandberg said the events “warrant an independent investigation by Israel, including a probe into the rules of engagement and the military and political readiness for the events.” Liberman took aim at the remarks claiming that Meretz represents Palestinian, and not Israeli, interests in the Knesset.

During Friday’s so-called “March of Return,” Palestinian rioters threw firebombs and rocks at Israeli troops deployed along the security barrier as protesters used burning tires and other violent means in a failed effort to breakthrough or damage the fence. There was one known case of protesters firing guns at soldiers. According to the IDF, at least 10 of the dead were known terrorists, and Hamas has confirmed that five of those killed were members of the military wing of the organization.

Terming the protest a “March of Terror,” Liberman praised the army for “carrying out its work in the best possible way.” No soldiers were injured in the clashes and the army is hopeful that the worst of the violence will not be repeated as protests continue in the border area.

Liberman noted that despite a so-called humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Hamas rulers spent about $15 million in subsidizing the protest efforts.