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Israel Warns Gaza Militants Against Revenge Attack Over Tunnel

Image: Israel Warns Gaza Militants Against Revenge Attack Over Tunnel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

Monday, 13 Nov 2017 08:01 AM

Israel warned Gaza's Palestinian militants Sunday against carrying out attacks in revenge for the blowing up of a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into the Jewish state last month.

The Islamic Jihad group meanwhile threatened to hit back at Israel over the destruction of the tunnel it says it dug.

The heated rhetoric comes at a sensitive time for the Palestinians, who are seeking to follow through on a landmark reconciliation deal signed last month aimed at ending a 10-year split between rivals Fatah and Hamas, the Islamist movement which runs Gaza.

Israel and militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.

The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressed concern, saying "the reckless actions and statements of militants in Gaza risk a dangerous escalation".

"Palestinians have embarked on a course to solve the humanitarian crisis in the strip and bring back the legitimate authorities. They should not be distracted by extremists," he said in a statement.

Israel's October 30 blowing up of the tunnel resulted in the deaths of 12 Palestinian militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

"There are still those who toy with trying new attacks on Israel," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of his weekly cabinet meeting.

"We will react forcefully to whoever tries to attack us or attacks us from any arena. I mean anyone -- rebel factions, organisations, anyone," he said in an apparent reference to Islamic Jihad.

"In any case, we hold Hamas responsible for any attack against us originating from Gaza or organised there."

Netanyahu's remarks followed a Saturday night Arabic-language video by Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of the COGAT defence ministry unit responsible for activities in the Palestinian territories.

Referring to the October 30 operation, he said that Israel "destroyed a terror tunnel in Israeli sovereign territory".

"We are aware of the plot that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group is planning against Israel," said Mordechai.

"They are playing with fire at the expense of Gazan residents, the Palestinian reconciliation efforts and the stability of the entire region.

"Let it be clear: any attack by Islamic Jihad will be met with a harsh and determined Israeli response."

Mordechai also addressed the Damascus-based Islamic Jihad leadership, mentioning Ramadan Shalah and Ziad Nakhaleh by name.

He called on them to "take control over the situation" as they "will be held accountable" for any attack.

Islamic Jihad rejected Mordechai's message, saying "the enemy's threat to target the leaders of the movement" was "a declaration of war".

"We will respond to it," the militant movement said in a Sunday statement, stressing it had "the right to respond" to the tunnel being destroyed.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya also reacted to Mordechai, though with a less forceful statement as his movement focuses on following through with the Palestinian reconciliation accord.

"The security systems we built in the Gaza Strip are a source of pride to all Palestinians and we will not withdraw from the option of resistance and we will not compromise on (the resistance's) weapons," he said.

Israel has said it is holding the bodies of five militants retrieved from the tunnel, and implied it could use them as bargaining chips to retrieve the remains of two soldiers believed to be held by Hamas.

Two Israeli civilians, said to be mentally unstable, are also believed to have entered Gaza and to be held by Hamas.

Hamas and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah signed a landmark reconciliation deal on October 12 aiming to end their decade-long split.

The deal is supposed to see the Palestinian Authority retake control of the Gaza Strip by December 1.

© AFP 2018

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Israel warned Gaza's Palestinian militants Sunday against carrying out attacks in revenge for the blowing up of a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into the Jewish state last month.
israel, warns, gaza, attack
Monday, 13 Nov 2017 08:01 AM
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