Terror group threatens ‘regional earthquake,’ massive rockets attacks if Sinwar, other leaders hit; Egypt reportedly mediating between Jerusalem, Gaza to prevent escalation
By TOI STAFF7 May 2022, 8:27 pm
Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s Gaza governor, speaks during a meeting in Gaza City, on April 30, 2022. (Mahmud Hamas/AFP)
Palestinian terror group Hamas threatened on Saturday to go back to carrying out suicide bombings and to “burn” Israeli cities if Jerusalem resumes its policy of targeted killings of senior terror figures.
“We will burn the cities in [the country’s] center and launch missiles at Tel Aviv and Gush Dan if Israel acts on its threats, those of which surpasses the enemy’s imagination,” Hamas warned, according to the Kan public broadcaster, which cites the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV station.
“The return of assassinations means the return of the explosive operations inside [Israeli] cities,” Hamas told Egyptian mediators, sources told Al-Mayadeen.
The group’s military wing also issued a threat for an “unprecedented response” and a “regional earthquake” should Israel attempt to harm any of its top leadership, especially Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar.
The May 2021 war between the two sides “will be but an ordinary event compared to what the enemy will witness,” said Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Some Israeli legislators and pundits have advocated killing Sinwar in response to the current terror wave, which he has urged on from the coastal enclave, and especially since three Israelis were killed in a terror attack in Elad on Thursday.
Masked Hamas members parade with Qassam rockets through the streets of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, on May 27, 2021. (AP/Yousef Masoud)
Abu Obeida further vowed that Israel would pay in “blood and destruction” for such a strike.
Israeli intelligence has conducted numerous targeted killing operations over the country’s 74-year history. Use of the tool peaked during the Second Intifada when Israeli forces took out Hamas leaders in an attempt to staunch a wave of attacks in Israeli cities.
A security source quoted in Hebrew media dismissed Hamas’ threats as “hysterical.”
“Their response in the last few hours only reminds us all of who begged for a ceasefire,” during the fighting last May, said the source, adding that the statements only further clarify how “deterred” Hamas is.
The terror group’s threat came after Israeli officials have reportedly indirectly warned that Israel could retaliate against Hamas for encouraging a series of deadly terror attacks in recent weeks.
While Hamas has not taken responsibility for most of the attacks since March 22 that have left 19 people in Israel and the West Bank dead, Sinwar has repeatedly called for Palestinians to assault Israelis and the group has publicly praised the perpetrators, encouraging more attacks.
The terror group also claimed responsibility for an attack that killed a security officer guarding the West Bank settlement of Ariel on April 29.
According to Channel 12 news, diplomatic and security officials relayed a message to Sinwar that the Ariel attack, coupled with his messages championing terror, gave Israel freedom to respond militarily in Gaza.
The message also included a personal threat against Sinwar, whom Israel has termed a “terror supporter” who may be dealt with in kind.
The network reported that the message was sent to Sinwar before two Palestinian terrorists armed with a knife and axe attacked people in the central city of Elad Thursday night, killing three men and injuring seven others.
Israeli security and rescue personnel work at the scene of a terror attack in Elad, on May 5, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Suspects As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, 19, and Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20, are not thought to be members of Hamas, but may have been inspired by a speech from Sinwar urging Palestinians and Arab Israelis to commit terror attacks, Haaretz reported, citing an unnamed security source.
Hamas said the attack was “a heroic operation” in response to Jewish Israelis visiting the Temple Mount holy site earlier Thursday.
In a speech Saturday, Sinwar had threatened violent consequences should Israelis continue visiting the site.
He also urged Palestinians to strike Israelis with whatever they had — including axes. “Let everyone who has a rifle, ready it. And if you don’t have a rifle, ready your cleaver or an axe, or a knife,” Sinwar said.
Palestinians and Israeli forces have clashed repeatedly at the Temple Mount over the past few weeks. The violence echoed scenes from last year when rioting at the site helped spark a war between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups led by Hamas.
Ever since the May 2021 war, Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has threatened to fire rockets at Israel if it violated the organization’s “red lines” in Jerusalem. The terror group has hailed its “deterrence” against Israel in the contested capital as a key achievement of the war, which wrought widespread destruction in Gaza.
In the wake of the attack in Elad, Israeli security officials extended until Sunday the closure of the West Bank and Gaza — which was put in place on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of Memorial Day and Independence Day, and had been supposed to end overnight Thursday-Friday.
Meanwhile, it was reported that Egyptian officials have been working over the past days to mediate between Israel and Gazan terror groups to prevent an escalation in violence.
According to Haaretz, the Palestinian groups demanded that Israel reduce the entry of Jews into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and reopen the border crossings between Israel and Gaza, citing the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper.
Palestinian workers are seen at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, on March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)
In return, the Gazan factions will refrain from resuming rocket fire at Israel and maintain calm in the region, according to Haaretz, adding that talks began several days before the terror attack in Elad.
The report also stated that Gaza factions warned Egyptian officials that “talk in Israel” regarding assassinating senior terror figures was laying the groundwork for “another round of escalation.”
A Palestinian source quoted by Al-Ayyam said that there were issues that had not yet been resolved, namely “Israel’s demand to end armed operations in the West Bank and within the country.”
According to Haaretz, talks were still ongoing as of Saturday afternoon.