Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that the violence at the Gaza border will continue until the “siege on Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and all the lands of Palestine is lifted.”
“The strength of will and the determination of our people in the March of Return will lead to victory over the crimes of the occupation,” he said during funerals for those killed in the previous day’s border riots. “The blood of the martyrs brings us closer to victory over the Zionist enemy.”
Israel on Friday halted the transfer of fuel to Gaza in response to heavy rioting and attacks at the border fence. Haniyeh said “our marches are not for diesel fuel and dollars, but a natural right of our people.”
Seven Palestinians were reported killed in intense clashes with Israeli security forces along the Gaza border Friday afternoon, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Gaza media outlets said at least 150 protesters were injured.
Earlier on Saturday minister and security cabinet member Yoav Gallant described the terrorist group as Israel’s “weakest and most aggressive enemy, a puppy that barks and shouts.”
He slammed Hamas for its actions in Gaza, saying it was “using the blood of civilians to provoke international attention.”
The army said Friday that assailants planted a bomb at the fence in the south of the Strip, blowing a hole in it. Some 20 Gazans then infiltrated the border and approached an IDF snipers’ post. Most turned back, but three who did not were shot and killed, the IDF said.
Meanwhile, 10 fires broke out in southern Israel that were sparked by incendiary balloons launched over the border from Gaza as part of the ongoing protests. Heavy smoke from burning tires at the Kerem Shalom crossing in the northern Strip prompted authorities in Israel to order residents of the adjacent kibbutz to stay indoors as firefighters set up large fans to clear the smoke.
In response to the violence Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered a halt to the transfer of fuel into the Gaza Strip, only days after Israel began allowing fuel to be pumped into the Strip to allow increased power for residents.
“Israel will not tolerate a situation in which fuel is allowed into Gaza while terror and violence is used against IDF soldiers and citizens,” a statement from his office said.
In recent days Qatari-bought fuel had begun entering the Strip to allow operation of its only power station, in a bid to alleviate conditions in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.
Israel facilitated the delivery over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, hoping it would help ease months of protests and clashes.
A Qatari official told the Reuters news agency that the $60 million fuel donation came “at the request of donor states in the United Nations, to prevent an escalation of the existing humanitarian disaster.”
For months residents of the strip have been receiving only four hours of electricity a day on average. Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s resident humanitarian coordinator, told the Reuters news agency the delivery will add a few more hours of electricity to Gaza’s 2 million residents.
Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in a 2007 near civil war and multiple reconciliation attempts aimed at restoring the PA to power in Gaza have failed.
Abbas says that making deals with Hamas amounts to recognizing their control over Gaza in place of the PA and has sought to block the fuel deliveries. He has reportedly threatened to cut off funds to Gaza in response to the fuel transfers.
Israel fears further deterioration in Gaza could lead to another round of war on the southern border.
Both Israel and Egypt enforce restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip from arming or building military infrastructure.
Agencies contributed to this report.