Jerusalem: Another round of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip is inevitable, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday, despite attempts to reach a long-term truce.
Lieberman said in a video statement distributed by his office that “the question is not to know if the next confrontation (with Hamas) will take place, but when”.
Lieberman also appeared to suggest that all Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip since protests and clashes along the border began on March 30 were linked to Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the enclave.
“Hamas has suffered 168 dead, 4,348 wounded and dozens of terror infrastructures destroyed,” he said.
Many of those killed have been young people protesting or clashing with soldiers near the border fence in the blockaded Gaza Strip. Two journalists and, according to the World Health Organisation, three medics have been among those killed.
Israel says its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop infiltrations or attacks. One Israeli soldier has been killed since March 30.
There have also been three major military flare-ups between Israel and Hamas since July on top of the months of tension along the border.
Thursday saw extensive Israeli air strikes in retaliation for the launching of more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds by Hamas and its allies beginning on Wednesday night.
Three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, including a mother and her 18-month-old daughter, while seven Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire as hundreds took refuge in bomb shelters.
It was one of the most serious escalations since the 2014 Gaza war and followed months of rising tensions.
There have been efforts by UN officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, though Israeli officials have not commented on them.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.