As the Palestinian death toll in clashes with Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border mounted on Monday, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Likud party said that he was unconcerned at the prospect of a border breach, because “the IDF has enough bullets for everyone.”
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 52 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,400 were wounded in the violence, the largest riots by far in a weeks-long campaign of protests against Israel. It was also the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 war.
The army’s primary worry during the riots was that dozens or hundreds of Palestinians, including Hamas members, would manage to break through the Gaza security fence and wreak havoc on the other side, including attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. The IDF’s spokesman said later Monday that Hamas deployed 12 separate terrorist “cells” to try to breach the border at different locations, and that all were rebuffed.
In an interview by Hadashot TV news early Monday afternoon, when the death toll in Gaza stood at 18, MK Avi Dichter, who chairs the powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, brushed aside a question about the prospect of the number of dead mounting and Palestinians storming the border.
“[Security forces] won’t let anyone put soldiers, and certainly not civilians, in danger,” he said. “The IDF has enough bullets for everyone. I think that ultimately, the means that the IDF prepared, whether non-lethal, or if needed, lethal, in cases where it’s justified by the open-fire regulations — there’s enough ammunition for everyone.”
Dichter assessed that the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, was stoking deadly violence, and that it was also seeking to provoke similar rioting in the West Bank.
The Israeli army said around 50,000 Gazans demonstrated in 12 locations along the border. It said thousands more were gathered at points several hundred meters from the fence. In addition to protesting the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Palestinians were also marking the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948. Leaders of Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, have said the ongoing border protests are ultimately designed to erase the border and liberate Palestine.
Dichter later repeated the assertion in a Hebrew post to his Facebook page, though he edited the quote to assert that “the IDF has enough bullets for all the terrorists.”
Gaza protesters set tires on fire, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air at several spots along the border, while the military said protesters assaulted the border fence and hurled rocks at soldiers.
The army said three of those killed were trying to plant explosives at the border fence. In two separate incidents, IDF troops opened fire on gunmen who were trying to shoot them, Hadashot TV said. The military also launched a series of airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza.
Military sources said Hamas was determined to spark a major new, long-term uprising against Israel, extending to the West Bank.
Israel said ahead of Monday’s protests that Hamas was planning to breach the Gaza border fence and “massacre” Israelis, and that it would stop a possible border breach at all costs, warning protesters that they were putting their own lives in peril.