Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz reaffirmed on Tuesday evening that Palestinian Prime Minster Ismail Haniyeh may be a target for future Israeli attacks, should rocket fire on Sderot and the surrounding area not cease. Claiming that Israel was currently acting with self-restraint, Peretz called on the international community to exert pressure on the Hamas movement to halt the firing of rockets, warning of the possibility of a large-scale ground invasion of Gaza and the future targeting of Haniyeh should their demands not be met.
After a meeting with the EU foreign policy Chief Javier Solana, Peretz stated: “This is a test for European diplomacy. It is a test for U.S. diplomacy. It is a test for the diplomacy of the free world. If the rockets do not stop, we will not stop. We have been acting very, very patiently. We have been biting our lip and trying not to get to a situation whereby we have to enter into a wide-scale ground operation.”
These sentiments echo the statements of the Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh who, when asked if the Palestinian Prime Minister could be targeted in the future, on Tuesday stated: “I’ll put it like this, there is no one who is in the circle of commanders and leaders in Hamas who is immune from a strike.”
In response to these implicit threats, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Gaza-based Hamas official, stated: “Any harm to Prime Minister Haniyeh or any Hamas leader would mean a change in the rules of the game and the occupation must be ready to pay an unprecedented price.”
Various news agencies have reported that officials of Hamas and other Palestinian groups have taken Israel’s threats very seriously and have ceased traveling in vehicles and now avoid using cellular phones in a bid to avoid being tracked by Israel.
In other developments, female members of the al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, warned of the possibility of future suicide-attacks on Israel should military action against the Gaza Strip continue.