Hamas responded Sunday to a Haaretz report that Israel has been mulling the assassination of its leaders over the past few months in response to the violent protests at the border fence and the launching of incendiary balloons and kites.
“The discourse and threats to return to the policy of assassinating Hamas leaders is ridiculous and points to the occupation’s dilemma and confusion,” said senior Hamas official Hussan Badran.
Badran, who is a member of Hamas’ political bureau, added: “The era is over in which Israel does what it pleases to the Palestinians because their blood is forfeit. Israel’s threats don’t even scare Palestinian children, so what do they expect, that the leadership should be frightened?”
A senior member of Islamic Jihad’s military wing said Sunday afternoon that the forces’ joint operations room is being managed with a defensive strategy. As a result, he said, quiet will be met with quiet, but the groups in the Gaza Strip will not restrain themselves if civilians or fighters are killed.
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Haaretz reported on Sunday that Israel had been preparing to kill senior Hamas officials. According to defense sources, the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service believe that targeted killings are preferable to a wide-scale attack on the Gaza Strip that could include ground troops. The sources added, however, that the killing of a senior Hamas figure could lead to a harsh response by the organization and the beginning of a military campaign.
To date, Israel has decided not to carry our these assassinations in order to exhaust the efforts by Egypt and the United Nations to broker a political arrangement instead. They say the IDF seeks to delay any broader conflict in Gaza until at least the end of 2019, when the above- and below-ground obstacle along the entire Gaza border is completed. The completion of the barrier will be the most important strategic event on the Gaza front, a senior defense official recently told a closed forum.
As an example of the effectiveness of targeted killings, the shooting of Mazen Fuqaha last year, a leader of the Hamas military wing, has been mentioned. Hamas attributes the shooting to Israel, though Israel has never claimed responsibility. Fuqaha’s death was seen as causing confusion in Hamas; the organization executed three people convicted of cooperating with the gunmen.
The killing of Fuqaha created tensions between various factions in Gaza, and Hamas’ control of areas that were Fuqaha’s responsibility was disrupted