Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the military was planning a “big surprise” for Hamas if the terrorist group failed to rein in violence aimed at southern Israel, amid reports that Israel has been contemplating the assassination of two senior Hamas leaders.
In a pre-election interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu said: “Hamas and the other terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad, whose commander [Baha Abu al-Ata] we eliminated a few weeks ago, have to understand that either there is complete quiet and they rein in the rogue factions — shoot them in the knees, that’s the way — or we will have no choice but to launch our operational programs. I can’t share what they are, but I can say it will be a big surprise.”
The prime minister said he would not subject any decision on Gaza to “political timetables,” with the March 2 election less than two weeks away, adding that he would “choose the right time to take action.”
The prime minister’s comments followed a series of similar threats he made last week warning Hamas to end a spate of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
“I’m telling you as prime minister, I don’t rush to war,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Channel 20. “I don’t puff out my chest, bang drums and blow trumpets. But we’re preparing for Hamas the surprise of their lives. I won’t say what it is, but it will be different from anything that came before.”
Meanwhile, the London-based pan-Arab website Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported Tuesday that an Egyptian intelligence delegation that visited the Gaza Strip did so after receiving information that Israel was planning to assassinate two prominent Hamas figures.
The website said it had been told by sources that Cairo had persuaded Israel to suspend a decision to assassinate Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and Marwan Issa, the leader of its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
According to the sources, Israel holds Sinwar and Issa responsible for the recent escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip.The Egyptian security delegation is reported to have met with Israeli security officials prior to traveling to the Gaza Strip and is said to have warned against the consequences of assassinating Sinwar and Issa, noting what happened when Israel eliminated Baha Abu al-Ata, the commander of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, last November.
Islamic Jihad fired some 400 rockets at Israel over a 48-hour period in response to the assassination.
Adam Rasgon and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.