Palestinian media outlet Ma’an conveyed comments earlier this week by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declaring that the kidnap of Israeli soldiers was a “top priority” for the Iran-backed terror group:
Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday that capturing Israeli soldiers was the best method for achieving freedom for Palestinian prisoners.
“Abducting Israeli soldiers is a top priority on the agenda of Hamas and the Palestinian resistance,” Haniyeh said during a conference focusing on Palestinian prisoners in Gaza City.
Haniyeh said that as long as there were Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the best method to free them would be capturing Israeli soldiers.
Haniyeh’s statements are bound to deepen already widespread concerns that Hamas is looking to halt a precipitous slide in its power and popularity via a spectacular operation against the Jewish state.
The Ma’an report was covered by both Israeli and U.S. media outlets, which contextualized the statements in light of the 2006 abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas used an underground tunnel to infiltrate Israel and seize Shalit, triggering Israel’s Operation Summer Rains and setting the stage for 2008’s Operation Cast Lead. The beginning of Israel’s 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense saw the Israeli Air Force eliminate Ahmed Jabari, Hamas’s “chief of staff” and the mastermind behind the operation to seize and hold Shalit.
Israeli security forces have in recent months uncovered multiple similar tunnels – including elaborate structures stretching miles into Israel and costing millions of dollars – designed to facilitate new kidnapping campaigns against Israel. Last October Hamas went so far as to both claim a particularly extensive tunnel, the third discovered that year by Israeli forces, and to boast that it had been intended for use in an attack on Israel. The Jerusalem Post at the time editorialized:
Haniyeh’s threats should not be taken lightly. The discovery of a long tunnel running from the outskirts of Khan Yunis to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha – the third of its kind to be found this year – is a reminder of Hamas’s intentions. In the warped internal logic of Palestinian politics, a successful terror attack or a kidnapping of an Israeli soldier or civilian would succeed in strengthening Hamas’s popularity.
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