Israel Warns Hamas against More Violence as Tension Spikes

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Israel warned Hamas Thursday against any escalation in violence, reinforcing its Gaza border amid continued rocket fire and heightened tensions after three Israeli youths and a Palestinian teenager were murdered.

"We are looking for calm, not escalation, but if Hamas chooses to act against us, we shall be ready," armed forces chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said in remarks tweeted by the army.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, warned Israel to wind down its Gaza air strikes and widespread West Bank arrests -- mainly of Hamas members. 

"What the enemy is doing in the West Bank and Gaza... adds fuel to the fire of confrontation," spokesman Abu Obeida told reporters.

"Idiotic measures by your leaders will be enough for us to turn your localities and sites... into embers."

The war of words came as Palestinians in east Jerusalem hurled rocks and fireworks at Israeli police and burned car tires on a second day of protests over the kidnap and murder of local 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khder.

Many believe he was killed in revenge for the abduction and murder in the West Bank last month of the three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found on Monday.

Israel police say the motive for Abu Khder's killing is still unclear, and have not said how he died.

But the family lawyer told Agence France Presse the boy's body had been burnt "beyond recognition."

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP Abu Khder would be buried on Friday afternoon.

Hamas, blamed by Israel for the kidnap and murder of the Israelis, said it held Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government directly responsible for Abu Khder's killing.

"You will pay the price for your crimes," it said.

As tensions rose, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner  said "we are moving and we have moved forces in order to serve defense activities and forward preparation, but we have no interest in escalation."

The reinforcements were reserve officers at "headquarter level, not in the field", Lerner said, and were purely defensive.

However, an AFP photographer saw tanks arriving at a kibbutz near the Gaza border.

"We are prepared for two possibilities in the south," army radio quoted Netanyahu as telling a July 4 reception at the U.S. ambassador’s residence.

"That the fire at our communities will stop and our activities will also stop, or that the fire at our residents of the south will continue and then the reinforced troops which are in place will act forcefully."

Israeli warplanes pounded targets inside Gaza on Thursday and militants fired 34 rockets into Israel, the army said.

It said another two were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system and four more failed to clear the border. 

Netanyahu denounced Abu Khder's killing as "despicable" and urged both sides "not to take the law into their own hands."

Four Israeli soldiers who allegedly used social media to call for revenge and to "annihilate terrorists" have been jailed for 10 days.

Outgoing Israel President Shimon Peres in a statement called for restraint.

"People who are engaged in incitement are not always aware where it can lead, to more sorrow, to more dangers," he said.

Witnesses told AFP they saw Abu Khder being forced into a black Honda Civic by "two Israelis" with a third in the driving seat. It then drove off at high speed, evading two cars which tried to follow.

The killing drew condemnation from around the world, including from the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which said the abduction and murder of civilians "must stop now."

A rally in central Tel Aviv called by leftist Israeli groups to protest against violence and counter calls for revenge had a poor turnout, with witnesses estimating the crowd at no more than 2,000.

Police said "hundreds" attended a similar event outside Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem. 

Tensions have soared since June 12 when the three Israelis disappeared in the West Bank, triggering a vast search and arrest operation.

Their bodies were found on Monday, but the hunt for the killers continues, with troops arresting another 13 Palestinians on Wednesday night, the army said.

Comments 5
Thumb chrisrushlau 03 July 2014, 18:31

The young man's body was burned, according to NBC news, when it was found in a forest ninety minutes after he was taken.
And Israel does not use "rubber bullets", Mr. French Empire. Israel uses plastic-coated metal bullets that resemble old musket balls in size and weight. How deeply into the body can one burrow? Israeli troops have a rule that they must be at least a hundred meters away from their target. People die sometimes after being hit by one of these bullets. They are very-slow-moving musket balls. The young man shot in the foot with one at point-blank-range did not bleed from the wound-site. You saw the photos?

Thumb chrisrushlau 03 July 2014, 18:33

Seriously, Lebanon's armed forces are not yet strong enough to operate in Palestine. They are doing quite well in Syria, as you know.

Default-user-icon Hatchi Bissoot (Guest) 04 July 2014, 01:28

Let hell break loose there, too. kherbeneh kherbeneh. tekhrab 3ala el kel

Missing VINCENT 04 July 2014, 02:55

Because it is easier to rape one's oppressed sister/cousin than a tough next door neighbor's daughter.

Missing VINCENT 04 July 2014, 03:05

Brought to you by Palestinians:
1. Alleged Civil War of 1975 in Lebanon.
2. Illegal/foreign arms and military presence in Lebanon
3. Terrorism
3. Dysfunctional, destabilizing, crippling Palestinians camps on our land.
4. A new enemy with a brutal regime like Israel.
Please feel free to continue the list or find a way to bring Israel on its knees and return the Palestinians to their homes. May be Lebanese should ask Egypt and Jordan how they achieved theirs.