Israeli Defense Chief Says Hamas Will Face 'Consequences' for Gaza Border Blast

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Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, left, with Israel Defense Forces deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, during a tour of the Israel-Gaza border, Feb. 20, 2018.
Defense Minister Lieberman, left, with IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Kochavi, touring the Gaza border Tuesday. Hamas sends "the most unfortunate people" to take part in clashes, said Lieberman.Credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that Hamas will suffer “consequences” for the explosion on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip that wounded four Israeli soldiers last week.

“It is clear that Hamas had a part in the incident, it continues to be part of the incident and we have drawn the necessary conclusions,” Lieberman said during a tour of the border with the Gaza Strip.

“What is clear is that Hamas is using the residents of Gaza as live ammunition,” he continued. “We do not intend to continue with this game and we will learn all the lessons from it. What is clear is that the heads of Hamas – who do not lack electricity, food or medicine – do not send their own family members to participate in confrontations along the fence. They send the most unfortunate people, people who are in the worst conditions and this speaks about the character of Hamas."

During his tour, Lieberman discussed the repercussions of last week's violence with the Israel Defense Forces deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, and commander of the Gaza Division, Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs.

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel will not accept the violence that is spilling over into Israel, the trickle of rocket fire and other attacks.

“We will not accept bombs on the border fence, like last weekend,” Netanyahu said, at a ceremony inaugurating the new emergency medicine department at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

The Strip, he added, has become a “barrel of explosives” due to the fact that it is ruled by Hamas and other terrorist organizations. “We do not intend to ignore attempts to violate our sovereignty or attack our soldiers and citizens," Netanyahu said, "and we have proved this time after time. Every act of aggression by the terrorists will meet a firm and powerful response on our part, from the IDF and security forces."

The IDF announced on Monday that it will now take more severe action against Palestinian demonstrators along the border fence. In a video clip posted in Arabic on Facebook, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories, said: “Starting today, the IDF will take harsher measures against rioters on the Gaza Strip border.”

In recent months, some 15 Palestinians were killed and more than 400 have been wounded in clashes with the IDF along the border. The army believes

that the confrontations are being organized at Hamas’ instructions – that the organization controls where they will be held, the number of protesters and the degree of violence used.

The IDF fears that the upheaval near the fence could lead to an escalation of violence, and that a single exceptional incident could lead to a much broader confrontation, spinning out of Hamas' control and affecting the entire region. This concern has prompted the army to adopt a stricter approach now and to try to head off violent incidents before they happen.

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