Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called on Gazans Thursday to “change direction” and focus on how to live peacefully alongside Israel instead of trying to destroy the country.
Speaking at a Holocaust Remembrance Day event in the Yad Mordechai kibbutz some 5 kilometers (3.5 miles) from the Gaza border, Liberman said that Israel always extends its hand to peace, but will not stand idly by in the face of threats.
“My message to our neighbors from the south — you will never succeed in breaking us. Change direction and start to think, not about how to destroy the State of Israel, but how to exist alongside the State of Israel,” he said.
Although Israel left Gaza over a decade ago, the Hamas terror group still seeks to uproot the Jewish state, Liberman lamented.
“Unfortunately, the battle over our very right to exist as a Jewish and free state continues to this day, even though the State of Israel extended a hand of peace to all its neighbors. We have signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and have left the Gaza Strip up to the last millimeter of the 1967 lines,” he said.
“Today, the leaders of the Gaza Strip threaten to destroy the State of Israel, to return the refugees to Tel Aviv, Haifa and Safed, and sirens blare as a result of their rocket fire at the communities in the south,” he continued.
Liberman defended Israel’s right to protect itself and urged Gaza to change its ways.
“We have the capability to stand and the capability and the right to defend ourselves,” he said. “Therefore, my message to our neighbors in the south is that you will never succeed in breaking us. The spirit, the hope and the faith that accompanied us during the Holocaust and during the War of Independence, is stronger than all our enemies and all who hate us, with all their prejudices — you have no chance.”
Palestinians have been taking part in mass protests dubbed the “March of Return” on the Gaza border since March 30.
Thirty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during the border clashes, according to the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry. Israel says it opens fire when necessary to stop damage to the border fence, infiltrations and attempted attacks. It alleges that Hamas, whose leaders have said the demonstrations are ultimately aimed at erasing the border and liberating Palestine, is seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.
Last Friday, during the second week of a series of events set to culminate on May 15, about 20,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the Gaza border in what Israel has described as a riot orchestrated by Hamas, and what Palestinians say was supposed to be a peaceful protest.
Israel’s army spokesman Ronen Manelis specified the same evening that eight explosive devices and numerous petrol bombs were thrown during the day and that the IDF faced several attempts “to cut through the fence…. There were attempts to carry out acts of terrorism … using the smoke [from burning tires] for cover,” Manelis said.