Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and artillery fire Friday night after dropping 50 tons of munitions on the Israeli-blockaded territory over the past week. An Israeli soldier and four Palestinian resistance fighters were killed during exchanges of fire on Friday, according to reports.
“Palestinians have the right to live in freedom and dignity, and international and regional leaders must work on ending the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, end its siege and support the Palestinian cause,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for the Hamas Movement, in a statement on Friday.
Earlier on Friday Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened a “broad, painful military operation” in Gaza. Lieberman indicated that Israel would once again target civilians in any new major operation in order to exact political concessions from Hamas.
“Unfortunately, residents of Gaza will be among those who will have to pay the price,” the defense minister stated. He also said that the operation would be “more painful than Operation Protective Edge,” the devastating assault Israel waged in June 2014, which killed more than 2000 Palestinians.
Lieberman makes no distinction between civilians and combatants killed during Israel’s ongoing crackdown on the Great Return March (popular protests along Gaza’s eastern boundary). “There are 159 dead terrorists, there are some 5,000 wounded,” Lieberman said.
In reality, most of the more than 150 Palestinians killed by Israel since the launch of the Great March of Return protests on 30 March were unarmed demonstrators. Before a soldier was killed on Friday, no Israelis had been killed in the context of the protests or as a result of any activity from Gaza since well before 30 March, the launch of the Great March of Return.
Reuters reported on Saturday morning that Hamas and other Palestinian resistance movements had agreed to a ceasefire. “With Egyptian and United Nations efforts it has been agreed to return to the era of calm between (Israel) and Palestinian factions,” said Barhoum.