Israel has warned the Hamas terror group to stop flying drones over the border between the Gaza Strip and the Jewish state, threatening to shoot them down, a Palestinian report said Saturday.
The Israel Defense Forces has allegedly spotted drones that crossed into Israeli airspace for several minutes before returning to the Strip, the Al-Quds newspaper reported.
The report said National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat conveyed a message via Egypt’s intelligence that if those “provocations” don’t stop, the IDF would be forced to shoot down the unmanned aircraft.
Israel reportedly believes the drones are operated by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group, an internal partner — and sometimes rival — of Hamas, which has ruled the Strip since taking over in a bloody coup in 2007 and openly seeks Israel’s destruction.
Israel generally holds Hamas responsible for any attacks or threats emanating from Gaza, hoping it can put other terror groups under control.
After weeks of quiet, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket into Israel last week that landed in an open area, causing no injuries or damage, the IDF said. In response, tanks shelled three Hamas military positions in the northern Gaza Strip.
Jerusalem has cooperated with the terror group even though it has launched tens of thousands of rockets at cities in the Jewish state, which maintains a blockade of Gaza to isolate Hamas.
Israel has reportedly been holding talks lately with Hamas over a potential deal to return two Israeli captives, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, and the bodies of two IDF soldiers being held in the Gaza Strip — Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
Israeli officials last month reportedly quietly confirmed that “significant” talks were underway with Hamas.
The government’s current chief negotiator for the release of Israelis held by the terror group updated families last month regarding the prisoner swap talks, while a senior Hamas official reacted Sunday to reported progress, saying the terror group was willing to “sacrifice everything” to win the release of its members from Israeli prisons.
But Maher Obeid, a member of the terror group’s political bureau, told the Hamas-affiliated daily al-Resalah that recent reports are just attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to placate the “Zionist street” and the families of the civilians and fallen soldiers currently being held in Gaza.
While Hamas has in recent weeks expressed interest in reaching a deal, the terror group, which is the de facto ruler in the Strip and openly seeks Israel’s destruction, has said that in order for such a deal to take place, Israel must first release all teenage, female and elderly prisoners in addition to those who were rearrested after the 2011 Shalit deal, when more than 1,000 terror convicts were freed in exchange for a single IDF soldier.