Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 June 2019

Hamas leader warns Israel against launching pre-poll 'adventure' in Gaza

'The resistance has its eyes open,' Ismail Haniyeh said, as Israel prepares for April general election

Palestinian top Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greets supporters during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas group. AP
Palestinian top Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greets supporters during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas group. AP

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against a military “adventure” in the Gaza Strip ahead of an early election in Israel next month.

Mr Netanyahu faces corruption charges before the April 9 vote, but plans to defend himself, instead of standing down.

Asked about a potential Israeli attack, Mr Haniyeh said: “If the [Israeli] occupation or Netanyahu think of an adventure, I think they will pay the price that will send them away.”

Mr Haniyeh also said Hamas did not care who won the Israeli election.

But Mr Netanyahu’s closest election rival is a man who led the Israeli military during the last Gaza war in 2014, in which more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed.

The emergence of Benny Gantz and his comments about separating from the Palestinians were welcomed by the secular Palestinian leadership, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.

But Hamas, which unlike the Abbas-led Palestine ­Liberation Organisation, has not recognised Israel, said the elections made no ­difference.

"We do not care who will come to rule in the occupation [state]," Mr Haniyeh said.

Tensions have continued to increase between Hamas and Israel after the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians in rallies at the Gaza border during protests against ­Israel’s 12-year-siege of the territory.

At least 251 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 2018, the majority shot during the weekly border protests and others hit by tank fire or air strikes in response to violence from Gaza. In response to deadly sniper fire, Palestinians have flown incendiary kites and balloons across the border into Israel, burning areas of southern Israeli farmland.

Israeli military helicopters struck Hamas positions in Gaza on Monday, officials said, after the country’s army reported a balloon-borne “explosive device” coming from the Palestinian enclave.

Monday's raid, which resulted in damage to the Hamas positions but no casualties, was the third exchange in as many days.

A Palestinian official said three military observation posts were hit in the south and centre of the Hamas-ruled coastal strip.

The Israeli military earlier said its air force struck "two Hamas military posts" in response to the latest launch of a balloon-borne device from Gaza.

In a bid to restore calm, Egypt launched a new round of mediation to secure a ceasefire between the militant group and Israel.

Mr Haniyeh accused Israel of “opting out of short and long-term understandings” aimed at alleviating the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave.

He said that last year Israel and Hamas reached understandings for Israel to extend Gaza’s fishing zone, increase the territory’s electricity supply and allow money into Gaza for Hamas public servants.

But Mr Haniyeh said a botched Israeli undercover raid in Gaza last autumn undermined understandings on broader issues “as if they never existed”.

Hamas expects Egyptian mediators to arrive this week to restart reconciliation efforts.

Updated: March 5, 2019 09:31 PM

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