Palestinian militants sent threatening text messages to a large number of Israelis on Saturday evening, calling on them to leave the country and warning them they would be “the next Gilad Shalit.”
The messages were sent in the name of Hamas. Saturday marked the tenth anniversary of the assassination by Israel of former Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Yassin, the spiritual authority who encouraged Hamas suicide bombings against Israel, was killed in a targeted air strike on March 22, 2004.
The messages may also have been a response to the killing of one of the terrorist group’s West Bank operatives by Israeli troops early Saturday.
“A warning to the Zionists. The al-Qassam rockets are waiting for you,” one message read in broken Hebrew, referencing Hamas’s armed wing – the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. “If you want your life, then get out of our land.”
Another one stated: “Al-Qassam promised revenge and there was revenge. And the score isn’t settled, and the next one will be even more terrible.” Yet another promised that “In the next war all of Palestine will be returned.”
Hamas has on several occasions in the past sent threatening text messages to Israelis as a form of psychological warfare.
One message in English read: “Al-Qassam has chosen you to be the next Shalite [sic]..Be Ready.” (IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas from an IDF base near the Gaza border during an attack in which two other soldiers were killed. He was held hostage by Hamas in Gaza for five years before his release in a lopsided prisoner exchange in 2011.)
Among the recipients of the hostile texts were journalists, government officials and deputy ministers.
At the same time, Israeli defense news website Israeldefense.com was hacked and briefly displayed pictures of Yassin and texts such as “This is a reminder to you that we will not forget the blood of our Sheikh. We vow again to take revenge, and this time to cut off the heads of your commanders.”
“You murdered our Sheikh with missiles and now our missiles reach everywhere in your state,” the hackers wrote.
Earlier Saturday the three main Palestinian militant groups — Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – warned of retribution against Israel for the killing of three Palestinians in the West Bank city of Jenin.
“The resistance in the West Bank is alive and won’t die, and the Zionist enemy can’t guess from where the resistance will attack. The blood of Jenin Martyrs won’t go in vain,” the groups said.
The incident started with an early morning raid, which the military said aimed to arrest Hamza Abu al-Hija, a 22-year-old Hamas operative wanted for involvement in shooting and bombing attacks against Israelis. The military said Hamza Abu al-Hija hid inside a house, refused their calls to surrender and fired upon troops. Soldiers returned fired and al-Hija was killed.
Within minutes, hundreds of angry residents and gunmen gathered and attacked the soldiers. The troops opened fire in self-defense, killing two Palestinians and wounding several more
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner described al-Hija as a “ticking bomb” and said he was in the final stages of planning a major terror attack against Israelis.