Fathi Hammad, a hardline Hamas official, on Thursday called on Muslims to kill “Zionist Jews” wherever they find them.
He made the remark in a brief speech at a funeral at the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City.
“O Muslims, wherever you find a Zionist Jew, you must kill him because that is an expression of your solidarity with the al-Aqsa Mosque and an expression of your solidarity with… your Jerusalem, your Palestine and… your people,” said Hammad, a member of the Hamas politburo.
Since its founding it the late 1980s, Hamas has blessed, encouraged, and orchestrated many lethal stabbings, shootings, suicide bombings and other types of attacks against Israelis.
Hammad praised what he termed the “peaceful” protest movement in the Gaza Strip, but — alluding to recent violence, which has stoked fears of another war — said armed factions in the coastal enclave were prepared to engage with Israel.
Since March 30, groups of Palestinians in Gaza have protested along the border fence with Israel, ostensibly to support the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their ancestral homes in Israel and pressure the Jewish state to lift restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of the Strip.
Many protesters have demonstrated peacefully in the border region, while others have thrown firebombs and rocks at soldiers, attempted to cross into Israeli territory, launched incendiary kites and balloons into southern Israel, and torched a commercial crossing between the Jewish state and Gaza.
“We are making history with our peacefulness and our peaceful movement,” said Hammad, alluding to the protests. “But our finger is on the trigger and we will not take our finger off the trigger.”
On Wednesday evening, the IDF struck Hamas infrastructure in Gaza after an Israeli soldier was hit by gunfire emanating from the Strip, according to the Israeli army.
Three members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, were killed by the Israeli fire, the Qassam Brigades said on Wednesday.
In the past three weeks, Israel and armed factions in Gaza have exchanged fire multiple times, but have so far avoided an escalation into a full-blown war, instead agreeing to temporary ceasefires.
Hammad also asserted that Israel has “begged” for a ceasefire every time the IDF and the armed factions in Gaza have exchanged blows in recent weeks.
“The Zionist enemy every day carries out a strike and then begs [for a ceasefire]. One time through Egypt, another time through Qatar, and another time through [Nikolay] Mladenov,” the UN special coordinator for the peace process, he said.
Egypt, Qatar, and the UN reportedly have played important roles in recent weeks in brokering ceasefires between Israel and the armed groups in Gaza.