Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday defended Israel’s use of live fire against protesters on the Gaza border and said the Hamas terrorist group wants the Palestinian demonstrators to die.
He also issued a warning to Syria’s Bashar Assad regime, saying his troops are “no longer immune” to an Israeli strike.
Netanyahu was questioned on the IDF’s response to the Gaza protests by an audience member at a London event hosted by think tank Policy Exchange.
“We tried water cannons, we tried tear gas and none worked,” the premier replied, according to the Haaretz daily, adding that “given our record, we probably will figure out something.”
“The last thing we want is violence [or] confrontation,” he said.
When asked to further elaborate, Netanyahu said that “we tried other ways, it doesn’t work. Hamas wants them to die.”
Hamas, which rules Gaza and openly seeks to destroy Israel, has held weekly massive protests on the border since March 30, including violent riots, attempts to breach the security fence and sending hundreds of flaming kites and balloons over the border, starting countless fires that have destroyed large swaths of land.
Over 110 Gazans have been killed, including over 60 on May 14, the day the US moved its embassy. At least half of those killed since the protests began in March have been identified as members of Hamas or other terror groups.
Netanyahu, who was in London to meet with his counterpart British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, also said at the event that Assad’s regime will pay for Iranian military entrenchment in Syria.
“He is no longer immune, his regime is no longer immune. If he fires at us, we will destroy his forces,” Netanyahu said.
“I think there is a new calculus that has to take place and Syria has to understand that Israel will not tolerate the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria against Israel,” he said.
“The consequences are not merely to the Iranian forces there, but to the Assad regime as well,” he said, adding: “I think it’s something that he should consider very seriously.”
Israel has been pledging for months to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran is backing Assad’s government. The Israel Air Force is believed to have carried out numerous airstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria.
Last month, the two countries openly clashed when members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Forces fired dozens of rockets at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, and Israel responded by striking Iranian targets in Syria.
Netanyahu this week traveled to Germany, France, and the United Kingdom to lobby the European powers against the nuclear deal and to persuade the leaders to pressure Iran to leave Syria.