The deputy head of the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group’s politburo has warned Israel against resuming targeted killings of terror leaders, saying the move could spark a “regional war.”
The threat by Saleh al-Arouri came after the Israeli security cabinet convened last week following several recent deadly terror attacks in the West Bank, with Prime Minister Benjamin 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 Friday with the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah news outlet Al Mayadeen, al-Arouri claimed Israel has 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 past assassination attempts.
Al-Arouri, who is himself wanted by Israel for allegedly masterminding the 2014 kidnapping and killing of 3 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.
Netanyahu responded to the Lebanon-based al-Arouri at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, saying the Hamas deputy leader “knows well why he and his friends are in hideouts.”
“Hamas and the rest of Iran’s proxies know well that we will fight with all means against their efforts to cause terror — in Judea and Samaria, Gaza and anywhere else,” the premier said Sunday, using the biblical names for the West Bank. “Anyone who tries to harm us… will pay the full price.”
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.