PM pushes back on Gaza ceasefire criticism, says ‘rules of game’ have changed

Netanyahu boasts that Israel has resumed assassinations, killed ‘dozens’ of Hamas, Islamic Jihad terrorists during bout of fighting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with IDF commanders after a security briefing in Beersheba, May 6, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with IDF commanders after a security briefing in Beersheba, May 6, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israel had reinstated its controversial policy of targeted killings and warned that the “rules of the game” vis-a-vis the Gaza Strip have changed.

The prime minister was briefed by army officials in southern Israel and visited wounded soldiers at a Beersheba hospital on Monday, hours after a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups went into effect, ending two days of intense fighting that saw more than 600 rockets fired at Israel and four Israeli civilians killed.

In response to the onslaught, the Israeli military conducted over 300 strikes from the air and land, including a rare assassination of a terrorist operative, who the IDF said funneled money from Iran to terror groups in the Strip.

“In the past two days, we’ve renewed the policy of assassinating senior terrorists, we’ve killed dozens of Hamas and [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad terrorists and we toppled terror towers,”said Netanyahu, who is also defense minister.

Palestinian emergency personnel try to put out the fire on a car belonging to Hamas terror group senior member Hamed Hamdan al-Khodari, after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, on May 5, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP)

He was referring to the killing of Hamas field commander Hamed al-Khodari in a targeted strike, a practice the army has largely forgone in recent years.

According to the IDF, al-Khodari owned a number of money exchanges in the Gaza Strip and used them to bring large amounts of Iranian cash into the coastal enclave for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terror groups.

At least 11 of the 29 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip since Friday were members of terror groups, according to Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Eight of the 11 members of terror groups belonged to the Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing.

Relatives carry the body of a Palestinian, who was killed in Israeli strikes the previous day, during a funeral ceremony, in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza Strip on May 6 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

“We changed the rules of the game and Hamas knows this well,” Netanyahu said. “At the same time, it’s obvious that this is not the end of the campaign, and therefore I have instructed [the military] to prepare for its continuation and have directed to keep the artillery and armored corps around the Gaza Strip.”

Netanyahu was criticized earlier on Monday by opposition lawmakers and a lone Likud MK for reportedly agreeing to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal in Gaza.

A car bursts into flames after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on May 5, 2019. (Flash90)

“Over the past two days, we have hit Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force, attacking over 350 targets and terrorist leaders and activists, and destroying terrorist infrastructure,” Netanyahu said in a statement earlier on Monday.

“The campaign is not over and requires patience and judgment. We are preparing to continue,” the prime minister added. “The goal was and remains to ensure the peace and security of the residents of the south. I send condolences to the families and wish a speedy recovery for the wounded.”

A spokesperson for Hamas also said that although the recent flareup in violence had come to an end, the wider conflict would continue.

“The resistance managed to deter the IDF,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, according to the Kan public broadcaster, referring to the Gaza terror groups. “Our message is that this round is over, but the conflict will not end until we regain our rights.”

Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip fire rockets toward Israel on May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

The ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza terror groups went into effect at 4:30 a.m. Monday, according to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups.

The Israeli government refused to confirm the reported truce, apparently so as to avoid publicly acknowledging its negotiations with terrorist groups.

However, the military announced that, as of 7 a.m., it was lifting all security restrictions that had been in place in the south during the fighting, and that schools would be allowed to open, indicating that a ceasefire had indeed been reached.

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