Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Sunday to threats of an escalation over the weekend from a Hamas leader, saying anyone carrying out terrorist activity “will pay the full price.”
On Friday, Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas’s politburo, told a Lebanese news outlet that any Israeli targeted killings of the terror group’s leaders would spark a “regional war.”
At the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said that he “heard the verbiage by the senior Hamas official Arouri, from his hiding place in Lebanon. He knows very well why he and his colleagues are in hiding.”
“Hamas, and the other Iranian proxies understand very well that we will fight with all means against their attempts to use terrorism against us – in Judea and Samaria, Gaza and everywhere else,” Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank and the Palestinian coastal enclave ruled by Hamas. “Whoever tries to hurt us, whoever finances and organizes, whoever dispatches terrorists against Israel, will pay the full price.”
The prime minister’s stipulation of “everywhere else” and “Iranian proxies” echoed similar remarks he recently made that were taken to mean that Israel’s response to terror attacks could include actions beyond its borders, or the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The threat by al-Arouri came after the security cabinet convened last week following several recent deadly terror attacks in the West Bank, with Netanyahu’s office later saying ministers had agreed on “a series of decisions to target terrorists and authorized the prime minister and the defense minister to act on the matter.”
No details were given on what those decisions were, but leaks from the meeting said the resumption of assassinations was one of the steps called for.
In an interview with the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah news outlet Al Mayadeen, al-Arouri claimed Israel had decided to target numerous figures, including top Hamas military commander Muhammed Deif, who has been wanted for years over his role in major terror attacks and has survived multiple Israeli assassination attempts.
Al-Arouri, who is himself wanted by Israel for allegedly masterminding the 2014 kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens, further charged that far-right members of the government were seeking to expel Palestinians from the West Bank and take control over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“The leaders of the occupation government, with their extremist policies, will cause an all-out war in the region,” he said. “Some in the cabinet are considering actions such as taking control of Al-Aqsa Mosque and dividing it, along with assassinations, knowing that this would lead to a regional war.”
“If we reach the point of an all-out confrontation, Israel will face an unprecedented defeat in its history, and we are confident of that,” he added.
Al-Arorui said Hamas was “preparing for an all-out war, and we are closely discussing the prospects of this war with all relevant parties,” noting threats the Hezbollah terror group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has recently made against Israel.
“The all-out war will be a defeat for Israel,” claimed al-Arouri.
Al-Arouri’s comments came days after Arabic-language media reports said terror chiefs in the Gaza Strip were taking heightened precautions over concerns they could be targeted by Israel.
Along with the leaks from the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have also recently accused “Iran and its cancerous proxies” of being behind the spike in attacks, raising the possibility that Israel could extend its strikes beyond the West Bank.
Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.