Netanyahu reportedly sent a message to Hamas via Egypt, urging the terror group not to escalate the situation ahead of the upcoming Israeli elections.
By Yona Schnitzer, TPS
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked the Egyptian Central Intelligence Service to convey a message to Hamas’ leadership in Gaza, urging them not to escalate the security situation in the months leading to Israel’s general elections in April, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Araby Al Jadeed reported Thursday.
According to the report, Netanyahu warned the factions in Gaza not to escalate the situation in a manner that would “force his hand” to engage in a full-scale military conflict – a situation that could hurt him in the polls as well as jeopardizing any possible long-term truce, which the Egyptians are reportedly mediating.
Netanyahu was also said to have urged the Egyptians to exercise a more lenient policy in allowing residents of Gaza to enter Egypt through the Rafah crossing so as to not give Hamas any “excuses” to escalate the situation.
On Sunday, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza warned Israel that they would “respond harshly” to what they described as the killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza during violent riots along the border on Friday, in which four Palestinians died.
“The atrocious crimes committed against our people have crossed the red lines and the resistance will not stand by idly,” read a statement issued by Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s joint command.
Several thousand Palestinians took part in the March of Return protests last Friday, throwing rocks and incendiary devices at Israeli soldiers along the border and burning tires.
The fatalities were the first since last month, when Israel and Hamas entered into a de facto ceasefire following a round of hostilities in which the Palestinian factions fired over 450 rockets into southern Israel during a 48-hour period on November 12-13. The flare-up occurred after an Israeli undercover team was exposed in Gaza, leading to a firefight in which one Israeli officer and several Palestinians were killed.