GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Palestinian terror group Hamas warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday against any military “adventure” in the Gaza Strip ahead of Israeli elections next month, as tensions spiraled along the restive frontier with Israel.
Netanyahu is currently battling for re-election for a fifth term, facing a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance as well as a planned indictment on corruption charges.
Asked about a potential Israeli military operation, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told journalists: “If the (Israeli) occupation or Netanyahu think of an adventure, I think they will pay the price that will send them away.”
“We do not fear any adventures from Netanyahu towards Gaza… The resistance has its eyes open,” added Haniyeh.
Haniyeh’s comments came amid a recent increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near nightly Palestinian riots and a return of airborne arson attacks, which had waned in light of a de facto ceasefire in November.
On Monday, Israeli attack helicopters hit two Hamas positions in southern Gaza in response to an explosive device that was carried into Israel by balloons launched from the Palestinian enclave, the army said.
It was Israel’s fourth retaliatory airstrike against the terror group in the past three days.
It came after a bunch of balloons carrying explosives came down between two buildings in the Eshkol Regional Council, the council said in a statement. The bomb exploded, but caused neither injuries nor damage. Two more balloons with explosives blew up in the air over Israeli territory later in the day as Palestinians rioted near the border, the army said.
Netanyahu and his chief challenger Benny Gantz have attacked each other over their records in Gaza. Gantz was the head of the Israeli military during the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza.
Many analysts believe Netanyahu wants to avoid an escalation in Gaza with unpredictable results ahead of April 9 polls.
Haniyeh said that Hamas did not care who won the Israeli elections.
“We do not care who will come to rule in the occupation (state),” Haniyeh said.
He also accused Israel of breaching an informal truce agreement struck in November, under which the Jewish state would allow Qatari aid to enter Gaza in exchange for calm on the border.
An Israeli undercover raid in Gaza last fall that went awry undermined understandings on broader issues “as if they never existed,” Haniyeh said.
He said Egypt was launching a new round of mediation to secure a new cease-fire.
Gantz’s emergence and comments about separating from the Palestinians have been welcomed by the internationally recognized Palestinian leadership, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. However, the yet-to-be-released platform of Gantz’s Blue and White does not include support for a two-state solution, according to media reports.
But Hamas, which unlike the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization does not recognize Israel and is committed to its destruction, said the elections made no difference.