Israel blames Iran for Gaza border violence

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Palestinian border protest (25/05/18)Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel border fence have been taking place since March

Israel has accused Iran of fuelling recent violence on the Gaza border that has seen more than 100 Palestinians killed amid protests against Israel.

Israeli military aircraft dropped leaflets on Gaza on Thursday, warning Palestinians not to approach the border fence for their own safety.

The leaflets urged people not to become "a tool" of the militant group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, alleging that its agenda was driven by Iran.

Fresh protests are planned for Friday.

It will be the last Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and also al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Iran, when demonstrations are held against Israel.

Some 123 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and thousands more wounded since a protest campaign began on 30 March, Gaza's health ministry says.

Media caption,

Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran nuclear accord: "The deal is dead. It's done. Because of the force of the economic sanctions."

The demonstrations have seen thousands of Palestinians mass on the border in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

Human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force. Israel has said they have only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the protests.

'Violent assault'

Speaking at the end of a visit to London on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinians could "protest as much as they want... but Hamas is organising a violent assault into Israel with a view of destroying us, which they openly proclaim, in order to break the border fence and kidnap and murder Israelis that are [living] 100 metres away.

"The last thing we want is any violence, the last thing we want is casualties, and the last thing we want is confrontation," he said.

Mr Netanyahu said Israel's military was working on developing non-lethal means of tackling violent mass protests.

"We tried water-cannon, we tried tear gas, we tried all sorts of other devices, but none has worked against this kind of tactic," he said. "They're working on it and given our record we probably will figure out something, but we haven't gotten it yet."

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Flaming kites sent from Gaza during the protests have burnt 2,250 acres of land in Israel

In the leaflets dropped on Gaza Israel's military repeated its warning to Palestinians to not go near the heavily-fortified border fence.

"For your own benefit, it is better that you not participate in the violent riots at the fence, not attempt to breach it, and not permit Hamas to turn you into a tool to advance its narrow agenda," the message said.

"Behind this agenda is Shia Iran, which has made it its mission to inflame tensions in the region for the sake of its religious and sectarian interests."

Iran is a major supporter of Hamas, which it backs financially and militarily. The two sides fell out after Hamas refused to support Iran's ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in the civil war in Syria, but they have since reconciled.