Netanyahu threatens Hamas with 'very strong blows'

Israel recently announced it would suspend all fuel deliveries to Gaza as government increases pressure on Hamas.

    Netanyahu warned Hamas that Israel would escalate conflict if Gaza protests continue [Sebastian Scheiner/AFP/Getty Images]
    Netanyahu warned Hamas that Israel would escalate conflict if Gaza protests continue [Sebastian Scheiner/AFP/Getty Images]

    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, which 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 on the Israeli side.

    "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. Just last week, a deal had been reached with Israel for the passage of 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 for fuel to be brought into Gaza over six months.

    On Saturday, Israel's Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman said fuel deliveries would only resume if there was a "total cessation of violence, the launching of incendiary balloons (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 their villages and homes from which their families were removed to make way for present-day Israel.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies