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Friday, 24 February 2017

Israel's Lieberman warns Hamas after flare-up

AFP , Thursday 16 Feb 2017
Lieberman
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Photo: AFP)
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Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday warned Hamas of a tough response to "provocation", after a projectile fired from Gaza saw Israel retaliate with force.

Lieberman also said Israel would turn the Gaza Strip into a prosperous territory if its people toppled the enclave's Islamist rulers, or if the militant group changed its ways.

His remarks came 10 days after a rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel without causing any casualties, triggering retaliatory tank fire and air strikes that wounded three Palestinians.

While Israel was not seeking a new war, "any provocation will be met with a powerful response," Lieberman said, quoted by the website of COGAT, the defence ministry body responsible for coordinating Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories.

Israel has maintained a blockade of the enclave for the past 10 years, limiting the entry of goods and crippling the economy in a move it says is necessary to contain Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since 2008.

Lieberman said Hamas was responsible for the dire economic situation in Gaza, and vowed to help the territory if it ceased preparations to attack Israel, or if Gazans ousted the Islamists.

"The moment Hamas gives up on tunnels and rockets, we will be the first ones to invest and build them a seaport, an airport, and industrial zones by Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings," he said.

"We can be partners to turning Gaza into the Singapore of the Middle East, but for that to happen the residents of Gaza need to get rid of the Hamas leadership."

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