Former Israel Defense Forces’ South Commander Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant likened the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, as a group of “gangsters” holding Gazans “hostage” and spilling their blood to provoke Israel.

The people in Gaza “are hostages of Hamas—20,000 gangsters and terrorists are holding 2 million people as hostages—and this is the result,” Galant told JNS, referring to the dozens of deaths along the Israeli-Gaza border on Monday.

“They were trying everything: missiles, rockets, tunnels, via the sea and via the air. We block everything. So eventually, they are using Palestinian blood to provoke the world, to provoke Israel,” said Galant, who now serves as Israel’s Minister of Construction and Housing and a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet.

On Monday, tens of thousands of Palestinians, encouraged by Hamas, rushed the Israel-Gaza border fence in an attempt to carry out attacks on Israeli security forces and to infiltrate the Jewish state.

“Over 35,000 Palestinians are currently taking part in violent riots along the security fence. The rioters are hurling firebombs & explosive devices, burning tires, throwing rocks, & attempting to ignite fires in Israeli territory,” the IDF Spokesperson Unit said on Twitter.

As a result of the attacks from Hamas, the Israeli Air Force has carried out airstrikes against five Hamas terror targets in northern Gaza, including a military-training facility. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reported that 43 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli solders along the border.

Galant believes that the basic problem in Gaza is that the Palestinian leadership has not invested in building a peaceful and prosperous future. “We disengage[d] from the Gaza Strip 12 years ago. Billions of dollars [have been] invested in the Gaza Strip. [The] result is all this money goes to Hamas leaders, rockets and to tunnels instead of creating greenhouses and factories.”

Ask how Israel can approach the situation in Gaza different, Galant said that it is in Israel’s interest to help the people of Gaza.

“We are willing to do anything to help the Palestinian population to have a better life and better standard of living for the Palestinians,” he emphasized. “It is a necessity and in Israel’s security interests.”