Seeking to quell rising tensions over the weekend, Hamas informed Israel on Saturday night that it was not interested in an escalation in the Gaza Strip, and would crack down on the Palestinians behind the rocket fire at the Eshkol region on Friday, the Palestinian al-Quds daily reported.
Hamas conveyed its message to Israel through an Egyptian mediator, while emphasizing that it did not stand behind the rocket attack, the report said — the third of its kind since a ceasefire agreement in August ended the most recent conflagration in the Strip.
The terror group pledged to locate those responsible for firing the projectile, which drew a retaliatory Israeli airstrikes over the weekend.
“We are interested in upholding the understandings that were reached, because there are priorities that must be kept at this point,” Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said, according to Israel Radio.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that Israel would not abide a single rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, and that Hamas would reap the consequences of further attacks. “If there’s an escalation of hostilities, Hamas will be to blame,” he said.
After the rocket attack on Friday afternoon, the prime minister said Israel’s retaliatory air raid targeted a Hamas factory that was producing cement to rebuild the attack tunnels destroyed and damaged in last summer’s war.
The airstrikes Friday night were the first by Israel on the Palestinian enclave since the summer truce that ended the 50-day war between the sides.
In the immediate aftermath of the Israeli raid, Hamas threatened to hit back.
Former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said that the airstrikes constituted “a grave violation of the ceasefire agreement.”
“We will protect and guard the resistance’s victory in the last conflict,” he said. “We call on Egypt as the guarantor of the agreement to act and stop the violations by the enemy.”
Another senior Hamas member said Saturday that “the resistance [as Hamas calls itself] has the right to respond to Israeli aggression at the time and place of its choosing.”
Ismail al-Ashqar warned that Israeli action “against Palestinian fishermen and agriculture workers [was] a dangerous escalation.”