Netanyahu credits army’s ‘determination’ for drop in Gaza clashes
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Netanyahu credits army’s ‘determination’ for drop in Gaza clashes

PM says Israel will continue to 'defend itself as necessary,' tells Guatemalan president 'muchas gracias' for embassy opening

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales attend a reception at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales attend a reception at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday credited the army’s “determination” for the sharp drop in violence on the Gaza border over the last day, vowing Israel would continue working to prevent any attempted attacks from the coastal enclave.

“I’m happy to say that today at least we saw a relatively quiet day on the Gaza border. This is good. This happened because of our proper preparedness and the determination of IDF soldiers that defend our borders,” said Netanyahu in Hebrew remarks.

Rejecting Hamas’s claims the border protests were non-violent, Netanyahu said the riots were a “warlike move by Hamas.”

“Israel will continue to defend itself as necessary and will not allow anyone who calls for its destruction to break into our borders and threaten our communities,” he said.

On Monday, some 40,000 Palestinians took part in riots on the Gaza border, during which the Hamas-run health ministry said 60 were killed. A notable drop in violence was recorded Tuesday, with two Palestinians said killed. No deaths were reported in clashes Wednesday, though Israeli tanks twice targeted Hamas positions in response to shots fired at troops.

Hamas acknowledged Wednesday 50 of the 62 Palestinian killed this week were its members. Islamic Jihad, another Gaza-based terror group, said three of its members were killed.

While Hamas has described the protests as non-violent, Israel has accused the terror group of using them as cover to carry out attacks and damage the border fence.

A Gazan attempts to damage a border fence in footage released by the IDF from May 14 violence at the border. (IDF)

Netanyahu spoke at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where a reception was held for Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales after his country inaugurated its new embassy in Jerusalem earlier in the day.

“Muchas gracias,” Netanyahu told Morales, while noting the 70 years of  “amistad” — friendship — between the two countries.

Netanyahu said he planned to visit Guatemala, calling the country a “bridgehead” for Israel to expand its ties with Latin American states.

“This year in Guatemala,” Netanyahu said, in a play on the Passover saying “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3rd-L) Guatemala President Jimmy Morales (C) and Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel (2R) at the official opening of the Guatemalan embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Echoing Netanyahu, Morales praised the long-held ties between Guatemala and Israel.

“Today, 70 years later, we’re still here. We’re still friends,” he said. “Guatemala is a friend, and we’re here to help you and to serve you.”

Morales also noted his country’s strong backing of the United States, which on Monday became the first country to open its embassy in Jerusalem.

“Guatemala made a sovereign decision to return its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We will always say to you, with our most sincere feelings: We are friends, we are brothers. We believe in many beautiful things. We look into the future with hope,” said Morales.

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