Israel threatens to strike Hamas positions amid Gaza demos

Press TV – Israel has threatened to strike Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip, if “March of Return” rallies near the fence separating the blockaded enclave and the occupied territories continue.

The Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Israeli army sources as saying on Saturday that they would react forcefully if the alleged attempts to damage the fence continued.

Israeli snipers have also been instructed to shoot Palestinians approaching the Gaza fence, according to the report.

Palestinians have marched to the fence as part of a six-week protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The peaceful demonstrations turned violent after Israeli forces used tear gas and live fire against the protesters.

Gaza was the scene of deadly clashes on Friday, prompting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to call on the UN, the Arab League and the EU to take immediate action against the Israeli violence.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Saudi and Egyptian officials had opened contacts with Hamas leaders to call for an end to the weekly protests in Gaza.

An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying that Cairo would ensure the regular opening of the Rafah border crossing in exchange for a halt to the Gaza demonstrations.

“The situation in the Gaza Strip is nearing an explosion towards anyone blockading it,” the source said, “and therefore there is a fear that Palestinian anger will turn towards Egypt in the coming weeks.”

Mourners and journalists carry the body of Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja, during his funeral in Gaza City on April 7, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

More than 30 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military over the past week.

The Return rallies culminate on May 15, the day Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes in 1948 and Israel was created.

Haaretz said the Israeli army is using live fire because it fears a massive breach of the aging Gaza fence.

The report further referred to concerns by the Israeli army sources that in case of many Palestinian casualties, the international community might renew diplomatic pressure on the regime.

On Saturday, the European Union questioned Israel’s “use of force” against the Gazans, calling for “restraint” in the besieged enclave.

In a statement, Maja Kocijancic, the EU spokeswoman for foreign affairs and security policy, referred to the killing of nine Palestinians, including a minor and a journalist, in Gaza on Friday and the injuring of hundreds more by Israeli forces.

The carnage “raises serious questions about the proportionate use of force which must be addressed,” read the statement.

“The EU is deeply saddened by the further loss of life. We wish a speedy recovery to all those injured. All concerned need to enable the quick delivery of medical equipment to those who need it, and allow medical deferrals to hospitals outside Gaza for humanitarian reasons,” it added.

On March 31, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged “an independent and transparent investigation” into the use of live ammunition by the Israeli military against the Gazans.