TEL AVIV – Stop the violent protests or Israel will respond harshly, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) warned Gazan demonstrators in an Arabic-language video Tuesday, adding that they might consider protesting against their oppressive Hamas government instead.
His warning comes in the wake of Saturday’s detonation of an explosive device – apparently planted during one of the demonstrations along the border against Israel – that resulted in the injury of four soldiers in a patrol jeep.
“We know that the violence on the border is used as a cover for terrorist activity, as happened last Saturday. And we will not allow such a thing to happen again,” Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told Palestinians in a video posted to COGAT’s Facebook page.
“Let it be clear: Starting today, the IDF will take severe action against rioters along the Gaza border,” he said.
“You should stop this now; go and demonstrate against Hamas in Gaza,” he added.
Mordechai concluded with a final warning to Hamas leaders. “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” he said.
On Saturday, in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deemed a “serious” incident, four IDF soldiers were wounded when a bomb was detonated during a routine patrol along the Gaza border. Two of the soldiers are in serious condition, the army said, and were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba.
The incident was the most serious to take place on the southern border since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
The IDF called it a “severe terrorist attack” with the potential to stir up clashes.
“This was a severe terrorist attack that has the potential to destabilize the region,” IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said.
The explosion occurred around 4 p.m. east of Khan Yunis and the southern Gaza Strip, when a patrol stopped along the border to remove a flag that had been placed at the fence a day earlier during a protest, one of many violent weekly riots. The explosive device was planted below the flag on the Palestinian side of the fence.
Mordechai told Gazans that in recent months, “Fifteen Palestinians have been killed and 400 people have been injured” during clashes on the border, but said Hamas was to blame for “exploiting you for its own interests.”
“Senior Hamas officials simply send you to do the work for them at the risk of your life. I am certain you would never see the children of Hamas’ leadership getting remotely close to the violent terrorist riots near the border,” he added.
Saturday’s explosion sparked a round of strikes over the weekend.
The army carried out strikes against “terror targets” belonging to Hamas, including an attack tunnel in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City that was dug in the direction of Israeli territory. Eight targets were destroyed by air force strikes and two by cross-border tank fire, the IDF said. Two military compounds belonging to the terror group were hit, one of which included a weapons manufacturing site.
Later on Saturday, terrorists launched a rocket at an Israeli border community, causing damage to a house but no injuries.
An additional rocket Sunday night triggered another Israeli air strike early Monday morning. A terror tunnel close to the Kerem Shalom Crossing was hit, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday.