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Israeli defense minister: Now’s the time to strike Hamas

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s defense minister says the time has come to deliver a “heavy blow” to Gaza’s militant Hamas leaders, after weeks of border violence.

Avigdor Lieberman says he’ll recommend doing so when Israel’s security Cabinet meets the following day. The minister spoke on Tuesday during a visit to a military base near the border.

He says it’s “the only way to lower the level of violence to zero or close to zero.”

Hamas has held weekly border protests for the past six months, aimed at easing a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

The protests intensified as Egyptian-mediated cease-fire efforts faltered. Over the weekend, Israel halted Qatari-donated fuel shipments to Gaza’s power plant in response to escalating violence.

Since March, 155 Palestinians were killed during the protests. Israel says it’s defending its border.

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