The leaders of Palestinian terror groups in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are taking heightened precautions over concerns they could be targeted by Israel following several recent deadly West Bank attacks, according to Arabic-language media reports on Wednesday.
Sources in “the resistance” told the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news site that Palestinian figures in Lebanon have also adopted enhanced security measures.
In comments to the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar daily, a source warned of a “major escalation” in violence if Israel carries out any targeted killings.
The fears come after an Israeli security cabinet meeting on Wednesday in which far-right members of the government pushed for a series of stepped-up measures against Palestinian terror groups.
The high-level forum was initially scheduled to convene September 10, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved up the meeting after an Israeli woman was killed Monday in a shooting in the West Bank, the third terror victim in as many days.
Netanyahu’s office issued a statement after the meeting saying ministers agreed on “a series of decisions to target terrorists and authorized the prime minister and the defense minister to act on the matter.”
The statement did not elaborate on what those decisions were. However, leaks from the meeting said that targeted assassinations of Palestinian terror leaders was one of the steps called for.
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have also in recent days 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.
“Iran is looking for any way to harm the citizens of Israel. We will take several actions that will restore security to the citizens of Israel,” Gallant says, adding that “all options are on the table.”
The Palestinian sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that faction leaders are taking “unprecedented security measures” and were taking Israel’s threats “very seriously.”
Several posts in Gaza had been evacuated in anticipation of strikes.
In May, Israel killed several senior Islamic Jihad commanders in airstrikes on Gaza, several days after the terror group fired a barrage of more than 100 rockets at Israel.
The Israeli strikes were the start of Operation Shield and Arrow, during which several other top commanders were tracked and killed before an Egyptian-negotiated ceasefire.
The Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, did not take part in the fighting.
The Palestinian sources told the paper that they had sent messages to Israel through intermediaries that “any aggressions or assassinations by Israel will be met with attacks, with no regard to the cost.”
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.