A senior Hamas leader called Wednesday for the formation of Palestinian terrorist groups loyal to his Gaza-based Islamist movement in Lebanon and Syria for attacks on Israel.
Mahmud Zahar told reporters in the Gaza Strip that Lebanese and Syrian branches of the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas' armed wing, should launch attacks on Israel "to help us liberate Palestine".
He also denied "any interference" by Hamas in Egypt, which last month declared the Brigades a terrorist group and accused it of aiding a spate of militant attacks on security personnel in the restive Sinai Peninsula.
"Our guns are always trained on the enemy," Zahar said, referring to Israel.
Zahar's call to action surfaces amid a series of border clashes and an already-tense security situation in Israel.
Northern residents and the IDF have been on high alert for weeks, after an IAF airstrike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed a senior Hezbollah commander and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general, along with several other Hezbollah and Iranian fighters.
Hezbollah responded by vowing an attack on Israel, but made clear it does not want another full-scale war. But the IDF has nonetheless remained on high alert, and covertly moved Iron Dome batteries close to its northern borders shortly after the incident.
Ahead of possible retaliatory strikes, the IDF also closed several roads in the north; hours earlier, a convoy of civilian vehicles with Hezbollah flags fired shots in the air close to the border with Israel, raising concerns further.
Likewise a recent video has apparently captured the sounds of underground digging, raising serious doubts about Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's claims that northern residents were not hearing Hezbollah digging terror tunnels but rather "horse hooves."
AFP contributed to this report.