Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorists received a blizzard of grim warnings Wednesday after a sniper attack launched a major battle with IDF soldiers guarding those working on the security fence near Kibbutz Nirim and Nir Oz.
Despite a blustery response, the terror group was also not entirely stupid: its commanders have once again begun to head underground into hiding, anticipating Israeli retaliation for their actions and forcing Gaza’s civilian human shields to live with the consequences.
Speaking at the Calcalist Conference, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Israeli forces “responded appropriately and we will act in an appropriate and powerful manner as any incident demands.”
Gantz added there is a possibility “events will deteriorate and develop into a significant incident.”
Referencing links between Iranian-backed Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda-linked Salafi Army of Islam in Gaza and the Jabhat al Nusra terror group in Syria, and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist organization, Gantz also noted a “strong possibility of a connection between fronts – that an incident in the north will influence an incident in the south.”
“We will respond with force every time there is an attempt to disturb the quiet that was attained in the south after Operation Protective Edge,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement following the battle.
His statement was backed up by a similar warning from Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz. “Hamas needs to understand that if it continues to undermine the security situation on the Gaza border, it risks a harsh Israeli response, which could turn into a comprehensive military campaign to demolish its government and military infrastructure,” Steinitz said.
The Hamas Izz a-Din al-Qassam military wing later issued its own statement from Gaza, accusing Israel of a “dangerous violation and a crossing of all red lines, as well as playing with fire… The enemy alone bears the responsibility of the repercussions of its uncalculated actions.
“It seems that this murderous enemy has not learned the hard lessons it was dealt by the resistance in the past. The enemy thinks that our people and the resistance are tired or exhausted after the last war,” the terror group added.
An allied terrorist organization, the Popular Resistance Movement, warned Israel would pay a ‘heavy price’ for killing one of its top commanders.
The clash began with a Hamas sniper’s bullet fired into the chest of an Israeli soldier on patrol. It led to an intense battle that included shelling from IDF tanks and Israeli air strikes as well.
Taysir al-Samiri 33, commander of the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades surveillance unit was killed in the battle, the terror group confirmed. Two other Gazans were also wounded, according to local medics.
But, “As a result of the attack, an IDF combat soldier from the Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion suffered a severe chest injury,” the IDF said in a statement. The soldier was airlifted to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva and his family was notified. He is listed in critical condition.
United Nations deputy Mideast envoy James Rawley has meanwhile expressed “concern” over the deteriorating situation on the Gaza border.
Carefully walking a tightrope of “neutrality” Rawley’s statement urged all parties to maintain and reinforce the August 26 “cease-fire” that ended Operation Protective Edge – but has already been broken by Hamas numerous times since then.
Rawley said in his statement that he is “deeply concerned by reports of exchange of fire between Palestinian militants and the IDF in the southern Gaza Strip today, which resulted in casualties on both sides.
“This follows a series of armed incidents since the end of November,” he noted – without pointing out that the “armed incidents” were actually unprovoked attacks launched solely by Gaza terrorists at Israelis.