Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday threatened Palestinian resistance group Hamas with "very painful blows" if they don't halt protests along the Gaza border.
"Hamas apparently did not internalize the message — if they do not stop the violent attacks against us, they will be stopped in another way and it will be painful, very painful," Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.
"We are very close to activity of a different kind, an activity that will include very powerful blows," the prime minister added.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also said Sunday that the time has come to "hit Hamas as hard as possible."
Protesters demand the "right of return" to their homes and villages in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel's 11-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave's economy and deprived its roughly 2 million inhabitants of many basic commodities. Israel accuses Hamas of using the protests as a mask to carry out attacks on Israeli soldiers and border communities.
At least seven Palestinian protesters were killed Friday by Israeli army gunfire near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone, Gaza's Health Ministry said.
According to the ministry, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed — and thousands more injured — since rallies on the Right of Return began on March 30.