Minister calls for targeted killings of Gaza kite bombers, Hamas leaders
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Minister calls for targeted killings of Gaza kite bombers, Hamas leaders

Trump's Mideast envoy Greenblatt says airborne firebombs are 'indiscriminate weapons,' not 'harmless playthings or metaphors for freedom'

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, November 14, 2017. (Flash90)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, November 14, 2017. (Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Tuesday that Israel should initiate a program of assassinations targeting those who fly burning kites from Gaza to Israel, as well as Hamas leaders.

Since the “March of Return” protests began along the Gaza border at the end of March, hundreds of kites have been flown into Israel outfitted with Molotov cocktails and containers of burning fuel, setting fire to large swaths of land. Firefighters, soldiers and local residents have worked on an almost daily basis to try to contain fires in Israeli fields ignited by the burning kites

“The fact that Hamas is enabling the shooting and the sending of the kites means we must return to targeted assassinations, and the kite launchers and Hamas commanders should be targeted for killing,” said Erdan during a visit to the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

“Our enemy is trying to harm civilian resilience because they understand that they cannot harm the IDF, but they will not succeed,” he added.

“In recent weeks, IDF strikes have dealt a significant blow to the infrastructure of Hamas,” said Erdan, further noting that “every attack will be met with a severe response. Kite terror is very serious, and whoever sends them should fear for their life.”

Firefighters were battling two blazes near Gaza on Tuesday afternoon after the latest in a series of near-daily attacks. On Saturday, a blaze that arson investigators said was started by a fire kite, or possibly a balloon filled with chemicals that dripped flames along the area, devastated a nature reserve inside Israel, in what officials said was the worst day of fires since the demonstrators adopted the fire kite tactics in the last few months.

Israeli firefighters extinguish a fire in a wheat field caused from kites flown by Palestinian protesters, near the border with the Gaza Strip, May 30, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Erdan’s comments came as Israeli troops were girding for a possible fresh round of violence on the Gaza border Tuesday as Palestinians mark the anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, during which Israel captured wide swaths of land from Jordan and Egypt, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The annual commemoration of the war, known as the “Naksa” in Arabic, or setback, is usually marked by rallies, protests and sometimes confrontations between Palestinians and IDF troops in the West Bank and Gaza.

In a series of tweets on Monday night, US President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt slammed the tactic of sending burning kites from Gaza to Israel, citing the massive damage caused by the incendiary devices.

“Hamas attack kites are not harmless playthings or metaphors for freedom. They are deployed as propaganda & indiscriminate weapons,” he tweeted. “Since the recent outbreak of violence, Hamas attack kites have started hundreds of fires, destroyed thousands of acres & wasted millions of dollars.”

Greenblatt also called for calm ahead of Tuesday’s planned protests: “All those plotting to provoke senseless violence and terror on June 5th will once again be focusing on destructive narratives of the past. Real leaders will call for peace and hard work to build a better future for all people in the region.”

Since March 30 there have been weekly clashes on the Gaza border as part of the so-called “March of Return” protests. Israel, defending against from attempts by Gazans to damage or breach the perimeter fence, accuses the terror group of using the unrest as cover to carry out attacks. At least half of those killed have been identified as members of Hamas or other terror groups.

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

The protests peaked on May 14, when some 40,000 Gazans protested along the fence and violent clashes took place between troops and Palestinians. The date coincided with the US opening its embassy in Jerusalem.Following the demonstrations, organizers had said Naksa Day would be the next large protest. However, Hamas has since attempted to garner support for larger protests on Friday instead, with the Naksa Day event expected to be more low-key, according to Hebrew media reports, citing military assessments.The Friday protest, dubbed the “March of a Million to Jerusalem,” is being touted as a fresh attempt to breach the border fence en masse, drawing fears of a melee similar to that seen on May 14, when Palestinians burned tires, threw firebombs, tried to cut through the fence and even shot at troops.

Tensions along the Gaza border have remained high since the May 14 protest, including nearly daily cross-border incidents.

Fears of a fresh conflict reached a boiling point on May 29, when the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups launched dozens of mortar shells and rockets at Israel, in apparent retaliation for the killing of three Islamic Jihad men in a shelling a day earlier. Israeli aircraft hit over 30 sites belonging to the two groups in response.

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