- Israel’s Liberman Threatens Palestinians with War Over Border Tensions
Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Liberman yesterday vowed a serious military action to end border clashes along the border with the Gaza Strip. “Wars are only conducted when there is no choice, and now there is no choice,” the defense minister said yesterday at the start of a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“Anything less than the toughest response won’t help anymore. We have exhausted the other options.” At least 130 Palestinians were hit by Israeli gunfire last Friday as thousands protested near Gaza’s border with Israel, the health ministry in the enclave said, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. Following calls to avoid an escalation in violence, the demonstrators largely kept their distance from the fortified frontier fence. But at least 130 Palestinians were injured by live fire in clashes with Israeli soldiers, the health ministry said. Rockets fired from Gaza last week had brought the territory’s Hamas rulers and Israel closer to a large-scale confrontation.
Since March, Hamas has orchestrated near-weekly protests along the security fence dividing Gaza and Israel, pressing for an end to the stifling Israel-Egyptian blockade imposed since the group took control of Gaza in 2007. Israeli fire has killed more than 200 Palestinians since the protests began. An Israeli soldier was killed over the same period. Of the seven killed on Friday, four died in one location, where the Israeli military said it opened fire on a crowd of Palestinians who had breached the fence and approached an army post. One Palestinian was initially wounded and died later in hospital. Israel was criticized by a U.N. human rights body for its killing of protesters in Gaza and its treatment of Palestinians, declaring it a war crime under the Statute of Rome.
The high casualty toll triggered a diplomatic backlash against Israel and new charges of excessive use of force against unarmed protesters. Protesters demand the “right of return” to their homes and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel. They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its more than 2 million inhabitants of many basic commodities.