Israel on Thursday threatened to assassinate top Hamas leaders in the event of any major “escalations” during mass demonstrations planned for Friday in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“We will not allow Hamas leaders to continue to hide in Gaza while women and children are sent to the border fence,” Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adaree tweeted.
Adaree’s warning comes only one day before planned demonstrations during which Palestinian protesters plan to converge en masse on the Gaza Strip’s roughly 45-kilometer eastern border with Israel.
“If necessary, we will respond — near the fence and inside the Gaza Strip — against those promoting violent demonstrations: the military wing of Hamas,” Adaree said.
All major Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, have endorsed the planned rally, in which thousands of Gazans are expected to participate.
According to organizers, the demonstration — dubbed the “Great Return March” — is to be entirely peaceful in nature.
Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant, however, said: “If the situation on the Gaza border escalates, the assassination of Hamas leaders is an option that remains on the table.”
Speaking to Israel’s Walla news website, he added: “In times of conflict, everything is allowed.”
The planned rallies are intended to pressure Israel to lift its decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip and reaffirm the Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral homes in historical Palestine.
Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has suffered a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has gutted its economy and deprived its more than two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.