Sinwar: 'That doesn't mean we won't use armed resistance'

Hamas leader says group reached deal with Egypt to stop riots from escalating

Israeli minister says Cairo warned Hamas it had proof terror group is behind clashes; Sissi warns embassy move could cause ‘some instability’

Yahya Sinwar, leader of the Islamist Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, speaks during a protest east of Khan Younis on April 6, 2018 (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
Yahya Sinwar, leader of the Islamist Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, speaks during a protest east of Khan Younis on April 6, 2018 (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Hamas’s leader in Gaza said Wednesday the terror group had reached an agreement with Egypt to prevent riots on the coastal enclave’s border with Israel from escalating to a fresh conflict with Israel, but warned it would not rule out the possibility of an armed clash in the future.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Yahya Sinwar said Hamas has pursued “peaceful resistance” during the weekly “March of Return” riots on the Gaza border, which culminated on Monday as the US inaugurated its embassy in Jerusalem.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t use armed resistance. If Israel goes overboard and spills lots of blood, we will be forced to respond accordingly,” Sinwar said.

Despite his refusal to rule out a return to arms, Sinwar said Hamas told Egypt it was committed to preventing the ongoing riots from “devolving into a military clash.”

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz also credited Egypt for contributing to the reduction in violence the past two days on the border, though unlike Sinwar did not say Egypt was motivated by its support for the Palestinians.

Relating to Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh’s trip Sunday to Egypt, Katz said Haniyeh was told by the Egyptian intelligence minister that “Egypt knows and possesses evidence” Hamas funded the clashes and sent people to riot on the border.

“[Egypt] unequivocally warned him that if this continues, Israel will respond and take much harsher steps and Egypt will stand aside and not help,” Katz told Israel Radio.

A picture taken on May 14, 2018 from the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz across the border with the Gaza Strip shows Palestinian protestors gathering along the border fence with Israel. (AFP/Jack Guez)

Sinwar’s remarks on the clashes were his first since Monday’s riots, in which the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 60 Palestinians were killed. It said another two were killed during clashes on Tuesday.

Earlier Wednesday, a senior Hamas official said 50 of those killed this week were its members. Islamic Jihad, another terror group in Gaza, said three of its members were among those killed.

Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Wednesday warned the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem may fuel regional instability, adopting a notably restrained a restrained tone in criticizing the move.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi attending a military ceremony in Paris in October 2017. (AFP/Pool/Charles Platiau)

“On the move of the US Embassy, we have said this issue will have negative repercussions on Arab and Islamic public opinion and leads to a kind of dissatisfaction and some instability, and will have repercussions on the Palestinian cause,” Reuters quoted Sissi as saying.

His comments on the Gaza border clashes that coincided with the embassy opening also contrasted sharply with other countries that have strongly condemned Israel.

“I urge the Israelis to understand that the reactions of Palestinians over this issue are legitimate and that (they) are handled by taking great care for the lives of Palestinians,” he added.

While Hamas has described the clashes as peaceful, Israel has accused the terror group of organizing the riots and using them as a cover to carry out attacks and damage security infrastructure.

The IDF said shots were fired at troops twice Wednesday along the border.

In the later incident, shots were fired at IDF soldiers near the security fence, causing no injuries.

In response, an Israeli tank destroyed two Hamas observation posts in southern Gaza, the army said.

Earlier, shots were fired at troops on the northern Gaza border, and in response an IDF tank targeted a nearby Hamas position.

Terrorist operatives in the Gaza Strip also fired a heavy machine gun at an Israeli aircraft earlier in the day, hitting houses in the southern city of Sderot. No injuries were reported.

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