Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas’ founding, in Gaza City December 16, 2018. . (photo credit:” REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
“We will break the defeated occupation army if it crosses into the Gaza Strip. We know what we say and mean what we say,” Sinwar said in a speech celebrating the Eid al-Adha holiday in his hometown of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.
“If Israel launches a campaign in Gaza, we will shower their cities with hundreds of missiles in one go,” he added. “If a war occurs, we will strike on the occupation army and break its power once and forever. We are not joking.”
Sinwar then praised the August 1 attack by Hani Abu Salah, a member of Hamas’s border patrol, who wounded an IDF officer and two soldiers as he tried to infiltrate into southern Israel in the area of Kissufim.
The attack, Sinwar said, was a “heroic commando one.”
Abu Salah was wearing a uniform and was armed with grenades and a Kalashnikov assault rifle when he infiltrated into Israeli territory from the southern edge of the Hamas-run enclave.
During his short speech, Sinwar also stated that the series of weekly protests along the border fence “will go on until it achieves its goals.”
The “March of Return” border protests began on March 30 and have seen over half a million people violently demonstrating along the security fence, demanding an end to the 12-year blockade, with several thousand to 45,000 congregating at points along the border every Friday.
Demonstrators have been burning tires and hurling stones and marbles, as well as carrying out other types of aggression, which include the throwing of grenades and bombs (including military-grade explosives) toward troops. Ball bearings and other projectiles have been launched by high-velocity slingshots toward forces along the border.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that close to 300 Palestinians have been killed and over 22,000 injured since the “March of Return” began.
According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of March, there have been a total of 29,187 Palestinians injured since the protests began, with 7,246 wounded by live ammunition and 773 by rubber bullets.
Another 12,442 Palestinians have been injured by gas inhalation and 8,449 by other means. OCHA documentation also found that the large majority of those injured were men (21,433), followed by 5,333 male youths, as well as 1,699 women and 445 girls.
The killing of the first Israeli soldier along the Gaza front since Operation Protective Edge in 2014 also occurred during one of the weekly protest, after an IDF force responded to a violent protest by 20 Palestinian youth some 400 meters from the border fence. St.-Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed after he was shot in the chest by sniper fire.
Over the past year there have been 10 rounds of violent conflict with terrorist groups in the Strip, with the last round in early May seeing over 700 rockets fired toward southern Israel and killing five civilians.