Amid rising border violence, Gaza terror groups warn of impending ‘explosion’

Hamas said worried surge in ‘lone wolf’ attacks could spark new Gaza war, says spate of violent incidents perpetrated by ‘rebellious youth’

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli forces near the border with Israel in the eastern Gaza Strip on August 16, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli forces near the border with Israel in the eastern Gaza Strip on August 16, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Amid a spike in violence on the Gaza border, Palestinian terror groups in Gaza warned on Monday that the enclave was on the verge of an “explosion.”

“The rebellion of the youth is a harbinger of an explosion,” officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad told the Palestinian news agency Safa. “We won’t tolerate the crimes of the occupation against our nation any longer.”

The comments are the most explicit expression yet of the growing concern among Gaza’s leaders that a recent series of violent incidents involving young lone-wolf Palestinian attackers at the Israel-Gaza border would lead to another war with Israel.

In their joint statement Monday, the groups said they’ve “warned the Zionists against continuing with their crimes, but the enemy’s leaders are still playing with fire. With God’s help, the boiling in Gaza will explode in the faces of the leaders and soldiers of the enemy.”

The statement added: “We see the Israeli occupation as responsible for the crimes targeting the young people who rose up and protested the continued blockade on the strip and the recurring attacks in the holy city [Jerusalem] and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Palestinians demonstrate near the fence along the border with Israel in the eastern Gaza Strip on August 16, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The comments come just hours after a senior Hamas official made similar remarks to the London-based Palestinian newspaper al-Araby al-Jadeed. The unnamed official justified the attacks, saying, “Palestinians are disappointed by the difficult conditions caused by the Israeli occupation… Dozens of promises to improve conditions have not been kept. This frustration has become the legacy of 2 million Palestinians.”

But he said the surge of attacks by independent actors in recent weeks has sparked concern among Hamas leaders that their actions and Israeli reactions might push everyone towards a new large-scale confrontation.

The official underscored that cross-border violence over the weekend was perpetrated by rogue elements, but insisted that Hamas remained in full control of the Palestinian territory.

The warnings come a day after Hamas officials blamed “rebellious youth” for the recent upsurge in violence in and around the Palestinian territory. On Friday and Saturday, rockets from Gaza were fired at Israeli communities, and early Sunday morning, the army shot dead three armed Gazans attempting to sneak across the border.

IDF soldiers during a military drill near the Gaza Strip, late July 2019. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Hamas spokesman Abdelatif al-Qanou said Israel had “killed and injured four rebellious youths, which is a reflection of its brutal behavior against our people and proof of the ugliness of its crimes.”

In a similarly worded statement, Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in Gaza, said Israel had targeted a group of “angry youths” and that it holds the Jewish state fully responsible for “its ugly crimes at our people’s expense.”

Hamas and PIJ officials have previously attributed attacks to “rebellious” or “angry” youths to distance themselves from their actions.

The beginning of 2019 saw a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near nightly riots and airborne arson attacks, but the violence has waned in recent months due to a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

A Palestinian man holding what the IDF says is a gun approaches the Gaza border with Israel on August 17, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel maintains many restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, which its officials argue are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.

Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have recently played key roles in brokering informal ceasefires between Israel and Gaza, which have largely entailed Hamas and other terror groups halting violence in the border area in exchange for the Jewish state scaling back some of the restrictions it has imposed on the coastal enclave.

Hamas, however, has frequently accused Israel of dragging its feet in implementing the informal agreements.

Analysts say that Hamas is desperately trying to prevent another round of hostilities with Israel in light of the Qatari money flowing into the Strip along with new reported plans to rebuild Gazan infrastructure.

Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamist terror group Hamas, take part in a march in Gaza City, July 25, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

On Sunday, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz blasted the Netanyahu government for “erasing” Israeli deterrence in Gaza.

Gantz, the former IDF chief of staff, said Hamas no longer fears Israel and promised to launch a military campaign to defeat the ruling terrorist group if his centrist party wins the upcoming elections.

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