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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

Former Israeli minister says Benjamin Netanyahu rejected plan to assassinate Hamas leaders

Avigdor Lieberman says the Israeli security cabinet stopped him from launching attacks on group's hierarchy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands next to Israel's former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman during a Knesset (parliament) session. AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands next to Israel's former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman during a Knesset (parliament) session. AFP

A former Israeli minister has revealed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected his plan to assassinate senior members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Avigdor Lieberman, the defence minister who resigned in November, told Israeli media outlets that the Israeli leader and his security cabinet had blocked him from taking stronger action against Hamas, including assassinations against the group.

“From April until November, I tried to change things from the inside, and convince [ministers] of what I thought was right, to thwart the terror, but there were members of the security cabinet who thought it was right to thwart the defense minister,” he said. Israel regularly refers to Gazans as terrorists, while many who support groups within the enclave see them as freedom fighters.

His call for stronger action came as more mass protests erupted in Gaza. Weekly rallies have been held in the enclave since March 30 to protest Israel’s continued siege of the enclave, and to call for a return to lands that were once Palestinian but now represent modern-day Israel.

In July of last year, he called for the targeted assassinations of senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders, but that the Israeli leader refused.

In July of last year, he called for the targeted assassinations of senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders, but that the Israeli leader refused.

Such assassination attempts are highly sensitive and could result in heightened conflict between both sides, something that Israel is trying to avoid due to international pressure.

Its military was highly criticised after the 2014 war in which more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces as part of Operation Protective Edge.

Israel claimed it had invaded to stop an extensive tunnel network into its territory but rights groups have accused Israel of war crimes, killing civilians in indiscriminate bombardments.

Israel has previously killed or tried to assassinate Hamas leaders, including a missile strike on Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004. It also attempted to kill Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshaal in 1997 but he survived. It has launched several attempts on the life of Mohammed Deif, the shadowy leader of the group’s military wing, who is believed to wheelchair-bound.

Updated: March 11, 2019 11:08 AM

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