Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and senior IDF officers visit an exercise simulating war with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group on September 4, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
In a tweet, defense minister hints to leaders of Gaza terror group that Israel is ready to go to war over border violence.
‘The holidays are over,’ Liberman warns Hamas heads
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday signaled to the heads of the Gaza-based Hamas terror group that Israel was prepared to go war, as the military geared up for another day of violence along the security fence surrounding the coastal enclave.
In a tweet, Liberman indicated that Israel had been holding back on a harsh response to the near-nightly riots on the border in order to prevent an all-out conflict during the period of the Jewish High Holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashanah on September 9 and ending with Simchat Torah on October 1.
“We’ve been through the High Holidays exactly as we planned, without a flare-up and by exacting a heavy price on the rioters along the Gaza border,” Liberman said, referring to the people killed and injured by IDF troops during the clashes.
“The holidays are over, and I say to the heads of Hamas: ‘Take that into account,'” the defense minister wrote.
On Friday morning, IDF snipers, tanks and ground troops prepared to take positions along the security fence ahead of violent protests and clashes expected to take place later in the afternoon.
The night before, Liberman ordered the Israel Defense Forces to go on high alert on the border.
The defense minister instructed the IDF to maintain “maximum preparedness for any scenario,” his office said.
On Thursday, the army announced it had decided to deploy additional troops to the Gaza area. The IDF also positioned a number of Iron Dome air defense batteries in the south as part of its preparations.
“It was decided to send large numbers of reinforcements in the coming days to the Southern Command and to continue the determined policy of thwarting terror attacks and preventing infiltration into Israel from the Gaza Strip security fence,” the army said in a statement.
Border riots, dubbed the “Great March of Return,” have increased dramatically in recent weeks. They began as weekly events from late March through the summer, but appeared to slow as Hamas entered indirect talks with Israel aimed at a ceasefire.
As these talks have stalled, Hamas has increased the pace of rioting and demonstrations against Israel, and created new units tasked with sustaining tensions along the border fence including during nighttime and early morning hours.
The nightly riots, in which Palestinians regularly throw grenades and improvised explosives at IDF troops, as well as ongoing airborne arson attacks using balloons carrying incendiary devices, have threatened to spark a new large-scale clash in Gaza.
“The IDF is prepared and ready for a variety of scenarios and sees the Hamas terror group as responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip and that emanates from it,” the army said.