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Netanyahu warns Hamas chief who threatened ‘regional war’

The PM called on Israelis to unite against terrorism.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Aug. 20, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/POOL.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Aug. 20, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/POOL.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday responded to a senior Hamas official’s threat of a “regional war” should Israel resume targeted killings in the wake of a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria.

Saleh al-Arouri—currently based in Lebanon and Hamas’s top commander in Judea and Samaria—raised the threat of war in an interview on Friday with Al Mayadeen, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese paper.

“The leaders of the occupation government, with their extremist policies, will cause an all-out war in the region,” said al-Arouri. “Some in the Cabinet are considering actions such as taking control of Al-Aqsa mosque [i.e., the Temple Mount] 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.”

Deputy Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah meet in Beirut in 2017. Credit: Hezbollah press office.

At the start of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that he had heard al-Arouri’s “arrogant words” spoken “from his hiding place in Lebanon.

“He knows very well why he and his friends are in hiding places,” the premier added.

Palestinians indicated that Arab countries have already warned Hamas of Israel’s intentions, cautioning the organization about the possible targeting of high-ranking officials both within the Gaza Strip and abroad.

Al-Arouri “is currently considered an extremely important asset for the Iranians and therefore it should be estimated that his elimination abroad will lead to the ignition of an all-out campaign, certainly on the northern [i.e., Lebanese] front,” sources within the Gaza Strip said.

Against this backdrop, Hamas has taken protective measures, including evacuating critical sites in the Gaza Strip in anticipation of an imminent attack. Similarly, in Lebanon, Hamas has sounded the alert among its members.

“Hamas, and the other Iranian proxies, understand very well that we will fight with all means against their attempts to use terrorism against us—in Judea and Samaria, Gaza and everywhere else. Whoever tries to hurt us, whoever finances and organizes, whoever dispatches terrorists against Israel—will pay the full price,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.

So far in 2023, Palestinian terrorists have killed 35 people (34 Israelis and an Italian tourist) in Israel and committed almost 200 shooting attacks in Judea and Samaria.

Hamas’s “military” wing in Judea and Samaria on Saturday took responsibility for the Aug. 19 killing in the Arab town of Huwara of Israeli father and son Shay Silas Nigrekar and Aviad Nir, who were gunned down at a car wash.

The Islamist group named the terrorist as Osama Bani Fachel, 20, a third-year engineering student at An-Najah National University in Nablus (Shechem). “Our jihad continues, and our activities will not cease,” Hamas posted on Telegram.

The most recent attack, in which a terrorist murdered kindergarten teacher Batsheva Nigri on Route 60 in Judea on Aug. 21 in front of her 12-year-old daughter, spurred the Security Cabinet to move up its scheduled meeting from Sept. 10 to the day after the murder.

“The Security Cabinet made a series of decisions to target terrorists and those who dispatch them and authorized the prime and defense ministers to act on the matter,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“The forum supports the commanders and soldiers of the IDF and security services in their activities against the terrorist elements,” it added.

On Sunday, Netanyahu called for Israelis to unite in the face of the Palestinian violence.

“I would also like to appeal to the citizens of Israel: We are facing waves of terrorism, both from within and without. These are not easy days, these are challenging days. We need to unite forces against terrorism, against crime in Arab society, against external and internal threats that Iran organizes to a large extent through its proxies.

“If we stand together, we will prevail. This is my call to all the members of the government and the Knesset and to all the citizens of Israel,” the prime minister said.

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