Diplomatic and security officials had relayed a message to Yahya Sinwar, leader of the Palestinian Hamas Movement, that the April 29 Ariel attack coupled with his calls for more attacks in Israel, gave Israel the freedom to respond militarily in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s Channel 12 reported on May 6.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, had claimed responsibility for the attack in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel which claimed the life of an Israeli security guard.
According to Channel 12, the Israeli message also included a personal threat against Sinwar, who repeatedly called on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank to attack Israelis as an act of resistance.
The message was sent prior to the May 5 Elad attack, during which two Palestinians armed with a knife and an ax attacked people in the central Israeli city. Three men were killed and seven others were wounded as a result of the attack.
The suspected attackers were identified as As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, 19, and Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20. Although the two suspected are not members of Hamas, they may have been inspired by a recent speech from Sinwar in which he called on Palestinians to carry out attacks with “machetes, axes and machine guns”. The suspects are still at large.
The Israeli message was met with a serious threat from Hamas. Izzat al-Rishq, a member of the group’s political bureau, warned that any Israeli attempt on Sinwar life will lead to an “instant war”.
“The Israeli campaign of threats and incitement to assassinate the movement’s leader in Gaza, Yahya al-Sinwar, or any of the movement’s leaders, does not frighten us,” al-Rishq said.
At least 19 people have been killed in Israeli since March 22 in a series of attacks by Palestinians. Hamas, the de-facto ruler of Gaza, praised each of the attacks.
Israel, which appears to be desperate to solve its security issues, may be trying to distract attention from its crackdown on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank by escalating against Hamas in Gaza. It’s unlikely that Israel will actually attempt to assassinate Sinwar. However, if this indeed happen, a war will most likely break out in Gaza.