MK: We’ll stop kite terror, even if it means major conflict, killing Hamas heads
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MK: We’ll stop kite terror, even if it means major conflict, killing Hamas heads

Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter warns Israel may return to assassinating terror leaders, could target Gaza chief Sinwar

Likud MK Avi Dichter leads a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Avi Dichter leads a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, said Friday that the incendiary kites and balloons being launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel could lead the two sides to renewed open conflict.

“Israel will find a way to stop this, even if that way turns out to be yet another military operation,” he said in an interview with Tel Aviv radio station 103FM.

Dichter, who chairs the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, lashed out at Hamas, which he said had been weakened by setbacks for its patron Iran in Syria and Yemen.

“These people don’t care about burning natural landscapes [with incendiary kites] — and they don’t care about burning human beings either. Israeli blood is meaningless to them. We won’t let this terrorism harm us,” he said.

He cautioned against going to war without careful consideration.

“No one likes to see this situation, definitely not residents of the south. But Israel has to consider its steps carefully…. When you launch a military campaign, you know full well that there will be casualties, so you ask yourself what are the chances that it will spark new terror or stop the current terror.”

Israeli firefighters extinguish a blaze in a field in southern Israel, which was caused by kites flown by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, on June 20, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

But, he said, Israel was guaranteed to stop the kite attacks either through a technological solution or a military one.

“Hamas knows Israel’s power is by orders of magnitude greater, more varied and more effective than theirs. For over a decade they dug tunnels, and they’ve seen that dream go up in smoke before their eyes when Israel found a solution,” he said.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched countless kites, balloons and inflated latex condoms bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, into Israeli territory, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, parks and forests.

Israeli leaders have been split on how to respond to those responsible for the airborne arson attacks, with some calling for the IDF to shoot the kite flyers and balloon launchers on sight, while others argue that it would be a step too far.

Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, speaks to foreign correspondents in his office in Gaza City on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

In his Friday interview, Dichter suggested the IDF might return to employing targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders, a practice he helped develop during his tenure as Shin Bet chief between 2000 and 2005.

“We used them to stop the terror attacks in the West Bank [during the Second Intifada in 2000-2003], and we stopped them. Targeted assassinations are one deterrent tool among many. If Israel concludes they can suppress terror — whether kite terror or any other kind — I think it’s legitimate.”

He added: “No one in Gaza, from [Hamas leader] Yahya Sinwar on down, is immune to targeted assassinations. If there’s no other choice, he’s an appropriate target and can be targeted. He’s an arch-terrorist. He deserves death, period.”

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