As concerns grow that the Iranian-backed terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) could strike from the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that his country would hold Hamas, which rules Gaza, “responsible” for any attack that targets Israel.
The prime minister’s warning underscored the complete military and political control that Hamas, which has recently been aligning itself more closely with Iran, exerts over the Gaza Strip.
Tension between Israel and PIJ have escalated since Israel destroyed a terror tunnel inside Israeli territory late last month, reportedly killing twelve terrorists, mostly from PIJ. It was later revealed that Israel recovered the bodies of five of the terrorists.
Hamas is currently trying to implement a reconciliation deal with Fatah, the Palestinian faction that rules the West Bank and controls the Palestinian Authority (PA). While the PA has assumed control of Gaza’s border crossings as part of the deal, Hamas has not relinquished its weapons.
Last week, PA police chief Hazem Atallah told reporters that as long as Hamas maintained its arsenal of rockets and guns the PA would be unable to provide security for Gaza.
In addition to refusing to surrender its weapons, Hamas continues to refuse to reject terror and recognize Israel’s right to exist. U.S. negotiator Jason Greenblatt has said that any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Any Palestinian government must “ambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said in a statement last month.
[Photo: فرانس 24 / FRANCE 24 Arabic / YouTube]