“Yassin and Rantissi are waiting for you, Haniyeh, if you implement the same stance of liquidating Jews, indiscriminate firing and suicide terror attacks aimed at paralyzing Israeli society again,” he said in an Army Radio broadcast Monday.
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was a co-founder of terror organization Hamas. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi also led the group. Both were eliminated by the IDF in 2004 in targeted missile strikes.
Haniyeh was scornful of Hanegbi’s threat and said it was “a type of political madness from some Israeli leaders”.
The exchange came after seven members of a PA family, including three children, were killed in an explosion on a Gaza beach on Friday. The IDF drastically reduced its artillery retaliation to rocket attacks from northern Gaza, pending completion of an investigation into the incident and to give Hamas a chance to rein in its members. An initial inquiry quickly determined that the Israel Air Force and Naval Force were not responsible for the shelling.
The PA refused to cooperate in an investigation, leading to speculation that a PA rocket attack misfired and landed on the beach instead. There have been a number of incidents in which Kassam rockets have landed within Gaza itself or in the sea.
Continued accusations that Israel murdered the family with a shelling attack have heated the situation still more. The Palestinian Media Watch reported Monday that PA TV has been broadcasting a falsified video clip showing the Israel Navy missile boat firing at a Gaza beach. The repeated broadcasts have further inflamed an already volatile situation, despite the obvious errors, such as no crater at the beach that was allegedly bombed, etc. The video clip may be viewed by clicking here.
Likud party Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu told Army Radio Monday that the decision to reduce shelling aimed at Gaza rocket launch sites might be perceived as weakness by PA terrorist organizations, thus encouraging further escalation in the violence. “They need to know that if [we] don’t have quiet, neither will they,” he said.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz continued to maintain the tight rein on IDF responses to the Kassam attacks, and told a Labor party meeting at the Knesset that he hoped he would have some concrete information on Friday’s incident by Tuesday.
“I hope the inquiry into the Gaza beach incident will be completed by tomorrow,” Peretz said. “We hope it will reveal that the incident was not caused by us, but we are not ignoring the human tragedy.” After the incident Peretz had offered to treat the injured at Israeli hospitals.
He added his own warning, however, saying he would give a green light for targeted killings if Hamas did not put a stop to the attacks. “No restraint is something infinite,” he said on Sunday. “The restraint … is aimed at conveying a message. We demand peace and we have the ability to provide much more painful responses,” he said.
Peretz came under fire within the party however, from opposition faction member MK Matan Vilnai, who has advocated for the IDF to enter Gaza and take back strategic areas.
The PA used the deaths as an excuse to escalate the violence against Israel, firing some 80 rockets at Sderot and other southern communities. On Monday, the attacks continued, with 13 rockets fired overnight Sunday and Monday morning, and five more on Monday afternoon. One landed near a gas station at the entrance to Sderot, at the Gevim Junction, with the other two landing in open areas near the industrial zone in Sderot.
An aide to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday distanced Olmert from the remarks in an interview with Reuters news agency. “No one speaks in the name of the prime minister,” he said. Olmert was in London for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair about his unilateral withdrawal plan.
Peretz maintained nonetheless that there would be a limit to his patience and that, one way or another, the rocket attacks would have to come to an end. “At the moment our forces are focusing their efforts, so I ask that no one delude themselves. I want to bring peace and quiet.”