TEL AVIV – The Gaza-based Hamas terror group has warned Israel it would respond to any assassination attempts against its leaders by sending barrages of rockets towards Tel Aviv, Hebrew media reported Thursday.
The Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper reported Hamas, using intermediaries, told Israel any “physical measures” against its leaders would be met with rocket fire after reports emerged Israel was planning a targeted killing of two senior leaders.
The terror group added that it was not afraid of war, either before or after the March 2 national elections.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas the IDF was planning a “big surprise” if it did not stop immediately stop the rocket fire and incendiary airborne devices emanating from the Strip.
“Hamas and the other terrorist organizations such as [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad, whose commander [Baha Abu al-Ata] we eliminated a few weeks ago, have to understand that either there is complete quiet and they rein in the rogue factions — shoot them in the knees, that’s the way — or we will have no choice but to launch our operational programs. I can’t share what they are, but I can say it will be a big surprise,” Netanyahu told Army Radio in remarks translated by The Times of Israel.
The London-based pan-Arab website Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on Tuesday reported an Egyptian delegation decided to visit the Gaza Strip on the heels of intelligence it received that Israel was planning to assassinate two senior Hamas leaders, Yahya Sinwar and Marwan Issa.
Egyptian officials persuaded Israeli officials to hold off on the killings, the report said, warning that any targeted assassinations would likely result in more missiles being launched into Israel. After Israel’s assassination in November of Baha Abu al-Ata, the commander of Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades, more than 400 rockets were fired into Israel over a two day period, including in the Tel Aviv area, prompting schools and businesses to shut down in much of the country.
Earlier this month, Netanyahu warned Gaza-based terror groups that Israel would take “crushing action” if the rocket and incendiary balloon attacks continue.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett also warned Hamas terror leaders Israel would take “lethal action against them.”
“Israel does not want a war with Hamas in Gaza, but we are committed to the safety of the residents of the south. The irresponsible behavior of Hamas’s leadership is bringing us closer to taking lethal action against them,” Bennett said at the time.
He added that any steps taken by Israel would be “unbearable” for Hamas.
“We won’t announce when or where. This action will be very different from those taken in the past. No one will be immune. Hamas faces a choice: choose life and economic prosperity, or choose terror and pay an unbearable price. Their actions will determine [which it will be].”