Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on Monday threatened Blue and White party leader MK Benny Gantz, warning that if Gantz tries to attack the Gaza Strip after forming a government, the terror group will see to it that he rues the day he was born.
Sinwar was referring to Gantz’s comments after weekend rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israeli cities in which the Israeli lawmaker, a former commander of the Israel Defense Forces, said that if he becomes prime minister, he will use military force to deter such attacks and possibly assassinate leaders of the terror group.
“We say to him: We are waiting for you, if you succeed in forming a government,” Sinwar taunted during a speech in Gaza. “Let’s see what you can do. With the permission of God, his glory and exaltedness, we will make you curse the day your mother gave birth to you.”
Sinwar also threatened relentless missile attacks on Tel Aviv in a future escalation of conflict. If violence flares up, “we are going to hit Tel Aviv and make the sirens go off in the morning, evening and night for six full months,” he threatened. “We can turn the enemy’s cities into ghost towns, if they continue to attack us.”
“If you have been thinking about coming in — we have thousands of mines that are waiting for you,” Sinwar added, and boasted that there are hundreds of miles of tunnels under Gaza that Hamas forces can use to defend the Palestinian enclave against an Israeli attack.
Sinwar also thanked Iran for its support of Hamas “with funds, weapons and expertise.”
Gantz and Sinwar, a former Hamas armed wing head, faced off on the battlefield in Gaza during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, a 50-day conflict during which Israeli forces battled against Hamas-led Palestinian terror groups. At the time, Gantz was still IDF chief of staff. During the fighting Palestinians fired thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel, including some aimed toward Tel Aviv.
Gantz on Saturday said “a government under my leadership will not tolerate a threat to the residents of the south and will not accept any harm to its sovereignty. We will bring back deterrence at any cost, even if we must personally hit those who are leading the escalation.”
Ten rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel Friday night, one of which struck a home in the southern city of Sderot. There were no injuries.
Israel responded with airstrikes in Gaza, which reportedly killed one Palestinian and wounded two others.
The IDF said the strikes hit “a wide range” of Hamas targets, including a naval base, a military compound and a weapons manufacturing plant.
Following the strikes, the Gaza-ruling Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations warned Israel of possible consequences.
Israeli authorities reportedly believe the Islamic Jihad group was responsible for the rocket fire and not Hamas. However, Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks from Gaza. The terror group, which seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of the enclave from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
Two rounds of elections within six months have failed to produce a sworn-in government in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to lead a caretaker government, while his chief rival, Gantz, has been charged with trying to form a coalition after Netanyahu, who was given first try, failed in the task.
On Sunday, Sinwar mocked the political deadlock in Israel, saying that the current political situation in Jerusalem means there is no government that can make major decisions. Sinwar made the remarks as he denied Israeli claims that there had been some progress towards a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas.
Hamas is believed to be holding three Israeli citizens — Avraham Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima — who are all said to have entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord in the period 2014-2015.
Israel has also long demanded that Hamas release the remains of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during the conflict with Hamas in 2014.
A deal over the Israeli captives and remains is believed to be one of several issues holding up a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.