A senior Israeli minister threatened to resume assassinations of Hamas leaders after the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Thursday released a video showing IDF soldiers and senior officers in the crosshairs of a sniper.
“The threats by the PIJ Terror organization to shoot at IDF officers by snipers from Gaza, constitutes crossing a red line,” Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz tweeted. “Hamas must know that any attack on IDF commanders at the border to Gaza will immediately lead to a renewal of targeted killings of the Hamas leadership.”
In the video, the sniper appears to train his sights on Israeli troops and officers at the Gaza border fence. Among those seen is Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Defense Ministry’s outgoing chief liaison to the Palestinians, as well as Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir.
“You murder our people in cold blood and think you are protected when the scopes of our snipers have been set on your senior commanders,” the terror group wrote in Hebrew and Arabic at the end of the video.
The video shows the sniper in a house in Gaza along with other Islamic Jihad members while observing the generals, who are seen alongside other IDF soldiers.
Mordechai, the Defense Ministry’s outgoing Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories, has toured Israel’s border with the Strip during the last few weeks along with Zamir to coordinate a response to widespread Palestinian protests that have led to bloody clashes.
He is defined by Israeli authorities as an individual under threat from Hamas, the terror organization that rules Gaza, and has had security forces guarding his house since the 2014 Gaza war.
The edited footage was apparently filmed during the Friday demonstrations in recent weeks dubbed the “March of Return,” according to the Ynet news site.
The encampments set up as part of the protests will be moved 50 meters closer to the border with Israel on the fourth protest slated for this Friday, the organizers of the mass demonstrations announced on Wednesday.
The National Forum for the March of Return, one of several Palestinian groups behind the weekly demonstrations, said that the decision came to “affirm our right to return” — a reference to the Palestinian demand that Israel allow tens of thousands of refugees and their millions of descendants to “return” to homes and lands inside Israel which they left or were forced from during Israel’s 1948 Independence War.
Egypt has reportedly been exerting pressure on Hamas and other Palestinian groups to halt the mass protests. The Egyptians, according to reports, have expressed fear that the demonstrations could spin out of control and ignite another war between Hamas and Israel.
According to the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip, 35 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since the beginning of the marches three weeks ago. Hamas has acknowledged that several of those killed were its members, and Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.
Last Friday, at least 10,000 Gazans took part in large-scale demonstrations, with the IDF saying some protesters hurled an explosive device and firebombs at Israeli troops deployed at the border, as well as making “several attempts” to damage the fence and cross over into Israeli territory. A week earlier, about 20,000 Palestinians took part in the demonstrations, and the week before an estimated 30,000.
Ahmed Abu Rtaimeh, a member of the National Forum for the March of Return, said on Wednesday that the demonstrations would continue “with full force” in the coming weeks.
He told the Hamas-affiliated Al Resalah news website that the March of Return had “imposed a new struggle reality that has vitalized the Palestinians and redefined the Palestinian cause as a cause of a people who want to return to their country.”
Israeli governments have rejected the notion of a mass “right of return” for Palestinians into the borders of the state of Israel, arguing that an influx of millions of Palestinians would spell the end of the Jewish nation-state. Israel has called for Palestinian refugees to be absorbed into a future Palestinian state, just as Israel took in hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Arab nations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Michael Bachner and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.