Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman branded Hamas leaders “cannibals” on Wednesday, saying that the Palestinian terror group treats women and children as weapons to be used in their battle against Israel.
Liberman made the remarks during a tour of IDF units deployed near the Gaza Strip, after troops earlier this week faced rioters, some of whom stormed the border security fence during deadly clashes.
He was accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
“The Hamas leadership is a bunch of cannibals who treat their children as weaponry,” he said. “They have rocket weaponry, they have personal weapons, and they have another kind of weapon: women and children.”
Liberman defended the army’s use of live ammunition against the protesters, saying that “the IDF acted according to moral norms that are not seen anywhere else in the world.”
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 were injured in Monday’s clashes.
The IDF said Tuesday that at least 24 of the dead were members of terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The protests thinned out Tuesday with 4,000 joining the border clashes, according to the IDF. In comparison, some 40,000 Palestinians participated in violent protests along the security fence on Monday.
Liberman said the drop in the number of participants was because Hamas “received a serious, significant blow,” causing them to “go back into the doghouse a bit.”
However, he cautioned against optimism: “There should be no illusions here,” he warned, “they haven’t given up on the rioting.”
Monday’s Hamas-organized protests on the Gaza border marked the 70th anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Nakba or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948, as well as protesting the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that day.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the deadly violence, saying the terror group encouraged and led the protests, which included attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the border fence. The IDF said Hamas planned to send armed terrorists through any breach in the fence to “carry out a massacre” of Israelis.
In total, Israeli security forces have identified at least 24 of the people reported killed Monday as known members of terrorist groups, mainly Hamas and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Those groups acknowledged 13 of their members were among the dead.
Hamas has said protests would continue, but it is not clear if it would be able to maintain momentum during the fasting month of Ramadan which begins this week.