Hamas: Israel must quit 'empty threats' and lift Gaza blockade
The Palestinian Hamas movement has warned that Israel should focus on lifting the siege on Gaza instead of threatening to start a new war.
"The Israeli threats do not deter the Palestinian people, nor do they break their will. Rather, they motivate the Palestinians to continue the popular peaceful protests along Gaza's eastern border," Hamas said in a press release late on Monday.
"The Israeli occupation should have met the legitimate demands of the Palestinian non-violent protesters and lifted its siege instead of making empty threats."
The statement is in response to repeated threats by Israel's prime minister and defence minister to attack the besieged enclave if protests across the Gaza border fence continued.
"It seems that Hamas has not understood the message. If these attacks do not stop, they will be stopped in another way, in the form of very, very strong blows," Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday during the weekly cabinet meeting, in reference to recent protests at the border.
"We are very close to another type of action which would include very strong blows. If Hamas is intelligent, it will cease fire and violence now," he added.
Shortly before the cabinet meeting, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman called for "directing the strongest possible blow to Hamas" in an interview with Israel's Yediot Aharonot before the cabinet meeting.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhalah, however, said that his group was taking the Israeli threats to start a new war seriously and called on his group's fighters to prepare.
"We call on all the fighters to be fully prepared to confront an impending aggression," he said on Monday.
He added that Palestinians in Gaza will refuse to "bow to the threats". "No one will be able coerce Palestinians into accepting the blockade and aggression."
Palestinians have staged regular protests along the Gaza separation fence since 30 March, demanding the right for families to return home after they fled or were expelled from during the creation of Israel in 1948.
They are also calling for an end to the decade-long Israel-Egypt blockade that the UN says will make Gaza "unlivable" by 2020.