Hamas Chief in Gaza Warns Israel After Botched IDF Operation: Don't Test Us Again

Yahya Sinwar displays gun he claims was taken from Israeli force whose commander was killed during operation, vows that another incident would lead to Israeli captives

Yehiyeh Sinwar, the Hamas militant leader in the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City, May 10, 2018
Khalil Hamra / AP

Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar spoke Friday in Khan Younis at an event honoring Palestinians killed in a recent clash with Israeli special forces, warning Israel not to test his organization again.

Sinwar referred to the incident in which an Israeli officer and seven Palestinian were killed during an Israeli special operation, saying, "this time you managed to leave with dead and wounded; next time we will release our prisoners from the jails and there will even be soldiers left in our hands."

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Sinwar was photographed waving a gun and silencer that he claimed was given to him by Mohammad Deif, the head of Hamas' military wing, after it was retrieved from the Israeli forces. Sinwar further said that Hamas possesses footage of the incident and of the evacuation of the officer who was killed.

"The Israeli enemy has understood that our calm in recent years was not meaningless," he said, adding that in the latest round of fighting "the rocket fire was measured but in larger numbers and with much more powerful warheads."

Sinwar said he had spoken with Deif, who had asked him to deliver the message that Hamas and the other armed Palestinian factions "are determined to break the siege and to provide respectable lives to the Palestinian people in Gaza."

He also said that the steps Israel has agreed to take as part of negotiations toward a long-term cease-fire – the Qatari-funded delivery of fuel to Gaza, the payment of officials' salaries, and assistance for needy families – will not make Gaza residents "sell Palestinian blood." The Israeli leadership is "living in an illusion" if it believes otherwise, he said.

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Sinwar said that in the West Bank, there are militants "no less brave than in Gaza," but, he said, they are "constrained because of the security coordination" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. "In Gaza, we strike the Israelis and don't fix their tire punctures," he said, referencing a recent incident in which the Palestinian police chief in Hebron was documented helping Israeli soldiers change a tire.