The Defense Ministry announced on Monday that it was ‎temporarily suspending the delivery of petroleum fuels and natural gas ‎to the Gaza Strip through the main cargo crossing ‎linking Israel with the coastal enclave. ‎

Last week, Israel imposed sanctions on Gaza ‎over ‎Hamas-backed arson terrorism and ‎ongoing border ‎riots, announcing the ‎closure of the Kerem ‎Shalom crossing to anything by humanitarian cases ‎and aid deliveries. ‎

Kerem Shalom is Gaza’s only cargo terminal. The ‎‎coastal enclave has been under a maritime blockade ‎‎since 2007, when Hamas ousted the Fatah government ‎‎from Gaza in a military coup. Israel maintains that ‎the ‎blockade is vital to prevent Hamas from ‎smuggling ‎terrorists and weapons into Gaza. ‎

A Defense Ministry statement said on Monday that the ‎delivery of fuel and gas will be suspended until next ‎Sunday, stressing that the move will not impact the ‎deliveries of food and medical supplies. ‎

The ministry also said it would reduce the fishing ‎zone in southern Gaza to 3 nautical miles. ‎

This is the second time Israel is scaling back the ‎fishing area as part of the sanctions imposed on ‎Gaza over arson terrorism, as last week it was cut ‎from 9 to 6 nautical miles off the coast.‎

“Given Hamas’s relentless terrorism, Defense Minister ‎Avigdor Lieberman, after consultations with the ‎chief of staff, has ordered suspending the ‎deliveries of fuel and gas to the Gaza Strip until ‎next Sunday. This will not affect the delivery of ‎food and medicine into Gaza. It will also decided to reduce ‎Gaza’s fishing zone from ‎6 nautical miles ‎to 3 ‎nautical miles,” a Defense Ministry statement said.‎

Hamas denounced the decision and threatened ‎retaliation. ‎

‎“Israel’s vengeful steps reflect the magnitude of ‎the abuse imposed on the Gaza Strip. This move will ‎have serious repercussions and Israel will be held ‎accountable for it. Israel will never be able to ‎affect the [Palestinian] national position on the ‎continued struggle and resistance until the siege is ‎lifted and our rights are secure,” the terrorist ‎group that rules Gaza said in a statement. ‎

Earlier Monday, a Hamas official said that “Israel’s ‎sanctions reflect its intentions to exacerbate the ‎siege on Gaza and commit more crimes against the ‎people of Gaza. The world cannot remain silent anymore given the crimes against humanity that Israel ‎is committing,” said Hamas.‎

‘We don’t want war’

The Defense Ministry’s announcement followed another ‎day during which Palestinian kite terrorism sparked fires on ‎the Israeli side of the border. ‎

The terrorist arson campaign, launched in late ‎April, has so far reduced more than 9,000 acres of forest ‎and farmlands on the Israeli side of the border into ‎ash, causing millions of dollars in damage. Experts ‎say it will take at least 15 years to rehabilitate ‎the vegetation and wildlife in the scorched areas. ‎

Firefighters and volunteers battled several large ‎fires in Gaza-vicinity communities on Monday, sparked ‎by Palestinian incendiary kites sent over the ‎security fence.‎

The Nature and Parks Authority‏ ‏said Monday that one ‎‎of its forester‏s ‏discovered a dead kestrel ‎to which a ‎‎small satchel containing flammable materials was ‎attached.‎

The bird was found west of the border. The NPA said ‎it was clear the bird did not accidentally get tangled ‎in a kite or balloon string but was made to carry ‎the material. It is believed the bird died after the ‎satchel’s strings got entangled ‎in the branches of a ‎tree, and it was unable to break free.‎

Kestrels are small birds of prey that are common to ‎Israel’s south. The NPA expressed concern that Gaza-‎based terrorists would begin using birds to carry ‎incendiary materials and explosives into Israel. ‎

Also on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces launched a wide-scale ‎exercise ‎‎simulating a ground operation in Gaza.‎

The military stressed the drill, dubbed “Gates of ‎Steel,” has been on the ‎‎books for over a year and ‎was set as part of the ‎‎IDF’s annual training ‎program, saying its timing had nothing to do with ‎the recent tensions on the Israel-Gaza Strip border. ‎

As part of the exercise, the Southern Command’s ‎‎162nd ‎Division will simulate a ‎ground incursion of ‎Gaza City.‎

Located at the heart of the coastal enclave, Gaza ‎‎City is home to more than 500,000 people, making it the ‎biggest city in the Strip.‎

The exercise ‎will see Armored, Infantry, ‎Engineering ‎and Artillery corps troops drill ‎various urban ‎warfare scenarios using areas in ‎Beersheva and ‎several Negev Bedouin towns. ‎

The drill is expected to simulate raids, chasing ‎‎terrorists in open and tight urban areas, and ‎‎dealing with underground threats, explosive and ‎‎roadside bombs, as well as maintaining supply and ‎‎humanitarian-aid routes, the evacuation of ‎‎casualties and handling the local population.‎

“Will we go to war over incendiary kites and ‎balloons? Probably not. Will we go to war over ‎sporadic [rocket] fire? That is also unlikely,” a ‎senior Southern Command official told Israel Hayom ‎on Monday.‎

“We don’t want war. The desired situation is one ‎where we don’t have to deal with incendiary kites, ‎balloons and drones, but we gauge our response ‎according to the situation on the ground. We will ‎intensify our response gradually until it all ‎stops,” he said.‎

Lieberman, who observed the drill on Tuesday, said “if we have to launch a military campaign, we will be able to defeat any enemy. The IDF know what to do and when to do. The IDF is ready for any mission.”