Netanyahu warns Hamas after spate of terror attacks

PM stands by controversial ceasefire with Gaza rulers, says Israel will ‘exact a high price’ for series of deadly shootings

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on December 16, 2018. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on December 16, 2018. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he had issued a warning to Hamas after recent deadly attacks in the West Bank, including two shootings claimed by the Gaza-based terrorist group.

Netanyahu referred to a controversial Gaza ceasefire in November that ended the worst escalation between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war.

“I conveyed a clear message to Hamas — we won’t accept a situation of a truce in Gaza and terror in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

“We will exact a high price for them,” he said of the attacks.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, runs the Gaza Strip but also has a presence in the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s comments came after two soldiers were shot dead at a bus stop outside the outpost of Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank.

On the same day, a baby prematurely delivered after his mother was shot and wounded in a separate attack outside the nearby settlement of Ofra December 9, also died.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett attending a rally protesting ongoing terror attacks against Israelis in the West Bank, outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 16, 2018. (Courtesy)

Hamas claimed responsibility for the Ofra shooting and another in the West Bank industrial complex of Barkan on October 7 that killed two Israelis.

The two Palestinians behind those attacks were shot dead by Israeli forces during arrest raids last week, officials said.

The IDF says it has arrested at least 37 Hamas operatives in connection with recent violence in raids across the West Bank in the last week.

The spate of terror attacks followed a deal to restore relative calm to the Gaza Strip that included Israel allowing Qatar to send fuel and tens of millions of dollars to the besieged territory for salaries.

Right-wing lawmakers opposed the Gaza agreement and have also criticized Netanyahu over the recent West Bank violence.

On Sunday, hundreds of right-wing activists outside Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem called on the government to increase security measures as well as settlement construction.

Israeli troops search for the terrorists who committed a shooting attack on a bus stop outside the Ofra settlement in the West Bank, near Ramallah, in which seven Israelis were injured, including a pregnant woman, on December 9, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Participating in the protest were nine government ministers, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the nationalist Jewish Home party.

A ministerial committee headed by Shaked later gave initial approval to a bill that would help legalize settlement homes built on state land without government approval.

“The terrorists will know that we’re here to stay,” she said following the vote. “We won’t be deterred by attacks.”

On Thursday, Shaked said that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had also approved a way to help legalize some 2,000 West Bank homes considered illegal by Israel as they are located on privately owned Palestinian land.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Right-wing Israelis often call for increased settlement construction and approvals following Palestinian terror attacks.

After Sunday’s demonstration, the ruling Likud party slammed Bennett for protesting the government he is a member of, and accused him of “childish horror show at the cabinet meeting in a desperate attempt to get the defense portfolio.”

Jewish Home hit back, releasing its own statement saying that “Netanyahu is paralyzed by a fear of jurists and the attorney general. The enemy recognizes this and has therefore ceased to be afraid.” The comments follow recent arguments by Bennett that the army has become too concerned with the legalities of war to fight effectively. At the Sunday morning rally, Bennett claimed that a consequence of that concern was Netanyahu’s failure to destroy the homes of terrorists immediately after attacks are committed.

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