Hamas chief says rocket fire at Tel Aviv due to ‘malfunction’

But Ismail Haniyeh warns the launches are only ‘a small example’ of what Israel will face ‘if it decides to perpetrate any stupidity’

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh tours the site of a destroyed building, in Gaza City, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh tours the site of a destroyed building, in Gaza City, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The leader of the Hamas terror group said Tuesday that last month’s rocket launches from the Gaza Strip toward central Israel were unintentional, but warned they were an “example” of what could happen intentionally in a future conflict.

Three rockets were fired at the Tel Aviv region last month, in what some have claimed were due to technical malfunctions. The fire set off brief flare-ups of fighting, which have since died down as the sides move toward a reported truce agreement.

“The rocket that hit Tel Aviv was [the result] of a technical malfunction, but it is a small example of what the occupation will face if it decides to perpetrate any stupidity,” Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the terror group’s Politburo, told analysts and writers in a meeting, according to Palestinian website Quds News Network.

“That which is unknown is greater,” he added.

One of the attendees at the meeting with Haniyeh confirmed to The Times of Israel the Hamas leader’s comments on the rocket fire being a mistake and a warning to Israel.

The attendee, who asked not to be named, also confirmed that Haniyeh said Hamas’s chief in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, was meeting with an Egyptian security delegation when two rockets were fired and that all of the group’s leadership had been surprised by the rockets.

The firing of two rockets toward Tel Aviv on March 14 marked the first time projectiles were launched from Gaza toward the country’s economic hub since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

In response to the launches, Israel struck some 100 targets in Gaza before an unofficial ceasefire was reached the next day.

Israeli television reports at the time said the rockets were accidentally fired when low-level Hamas operatives “messed with” a Gaza beach rocket launcher that was set up to fire toward Tel Aviv in the event of future conflict.

The site in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon where the remains of a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip were found is seen on March 15, 2019. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Channel 13 said the farcical chain of events that almost led to war was “like something out of Monty Python,” referring to the legendary British comedy group.

Last week, another rocket was fired from Gaza toward central Israel, striking a home in the farming community of Mishmeret and wounding seven people.

The attack set off several days of fighting and increased tension between the Gaza-ruling Hamas and Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces responded to the incident with airstrikes on scores of Hamas targets and Palestinian terror groups launched dozens of rockets at Israeli communities in the Gaza periphery.

Days later, a senior member of Hamas’s military wing said the rockets fired toward central Israel launched on their own due to the terror group’s heightened war footing.

“The early, automatic activation of the rockets from Gaza was the result of a decision of the resistance’s leadership to heighten its fighting preparedness,” the unnamed Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades official told Al-Jazeera.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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