Netanyahu Threatens Hamas Over Gaza Violence: Israel Is Close to a 'Very Painful' Response

Israel must deal the harshest blow on Hamas, defense chief Lieberman says after halting fuel transfer to Gaza following weekend clashes ■ Security cabinet to discuss Gaza Sunday afternoon

Black smoke from burning tires covers the sky as Palestinian protesters hurl stones toward Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, October 12, 2018.
Khalil Hamra,AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas on Sunday, saying that if the attacks from Gaza against Israel won't stop, Israel will launch a "different" kind of response.

"Hamas apparently didn't get the message," Netanyahu said during Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting. "If they don't stop the attacks against us, they will be stopped in a different way and it will be painful – very painful. We are very close to a different kind of activity, an activity that will include very powerful blows. If it has sense, Hamas will stop firing and stop these violent disturbances, now.

Also during the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu called on a leading rabbinical council, the Council of Torah Sages, to approve a new army draft law. "The draft law should pass and it's time to put it behind us for everyone's sake," Netanyahu said.

On Friday, seven Palestinians were reportedly killed by Israeli army fire as some 15,000 protesters demonstrated along the border.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said before Israel opts to go to war, it needs to exhaust all of the other options. "In recent months, I think we have made every effort, turned over every stone," he said, speaking to the Ynet news website.

"Hamas has turned violence on the [border] fence into a strategic weapon, through which they are hoping to erode our resilience. They are hoping to erode our deterrence," the defense minister added.

Hamas is seeking to have the siege of the Gaza Strip lifted without an exchange of prisoners, without giving up its goal of destroying Israel and without disarming, Lieberman insisted. "This situation is impossible. We have arrived at the moment when we have to deal the harshest blow possible on Hamas, but I assume the issue will go to the security cabinet and the security cabinet will have to decide."

The security cabinet will be meeting on Sunday afternoon.

Following the violence, Defense Minister Lieberman ordered a halt to fuel deliveries to Gaza through Israel, saying "Israeli will not tolerate a situation in which fuel tankers are allowed to enter Gaza on the one hand, while terror and violence are used against IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens on the other." 

On Friday, a number of truckloads of diesel fuel funded by Qatar entered Gaza via Israel.

On Saturday, Haaretz reported that senior Israeli security officials oppose Lieberman's order. The senior officials believe Israel must differentiate between the fuel it transfers to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip and the fuel donated by Qatar.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the security cabinet, said told Israel Radio earlier Sunday that "it's unreasonable that we find civilian solutions and in response Hamas will continue to encourage terrorism on the [border] fence, so it's clear that you are in a process of deterioration at the end of which there will not be a choice."