Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday threatened to inflict “very strong blows” on Hamas after fresh violence along the fence that separates the besieged Gaza Strip from Israel.
Israeli forces killed seven protesters along the fence on Friday during the ongoing weekly “Great March of Return” protests that began in March.
Though largely peaceful, some protesters have employed tactics such as flying incendiary balloons and kites that float over Israel’s separation fence and set fire to agricultural land in Israel.
“We are very close to another type of action which would include very strong blows. If Hamas is intelligent, it will cease fire and violence now”, Netanyahu said during a weekly cabinet meeting.
Israel announced it would suspend all fuel deliveries to the Gaza Strip, after fresh protests along the fence that saw seven Palestinians killed by Israeli troops.
Gaza, which already suffers from chronic power outages, relies on fuel shipments from Israel to power its electricity-generating plant. Israel last week reached a deal to provide Qatari-funded fuel to Gaza to increase electricity supplies.
|The majority of people in Gaza are originally from parts of present-day Israel [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]
A UN-brokered deal had seen Qatar pledge to pay $60m (52m euros) for fuel to be brought into Gaza over six months.
On Saturday, Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said fuel deliveries would only resume if there was a “total cessation of violence, the launching of incendiary ballons (from Gaza towards Israel) and the use of burning tyres against Israeli towns” near the enclave.
For their part, Palestinian protesters have faced Israeli tear gas and sniper fire during the mass protests.
At least 205 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed since protests began on March 30.
The protesters are demanding to be allowed to return to land now inside Israel, from which their families were displaced during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of the Jewish state.