Hamas threatened to launch an immediate war if Tel Aviv attempted to assassinate its leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, after several Israeli calls to eliminate him in response to the ongoing Palestinian operations against Israelis.
Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishq said the Israeli threats to kill the movement's leader in Gaza "will trigger an immediate war," adding that such attempts "do not frighten us" in the slightest.
Rishq indicated that these threats are a failed attempt to reassure the "terrified settlers," and they only "increase our determination to defend Jerusalem and al-Aqsa until the occupation leaves our land."
Earlier, Israeli officials, Knesset members, former soldiers, and the media called to assassinate Sinwar in response to the operation carried out in Elad near Tel Aviv on Thursday, in which three Israelis were killed with an ax.
The attack took place a few days after Sinwar said in a speech: "Let everyone who has a rifle prepare his rifle. And whoever does not have a gun, let him prepare his machete, ax, or a knife."
Israeli journalists and analysts explained that authorities should take Sinwar's statement more seriously because he works according to a clear ideology.
Channel 12 army correspondent Nir Dvory said that there had been deliberations in Tel Aviv about responding, adding that Israel cannot stand by and do nothing when 19 people are killed within six weeks.
Dvory indicated that after Sinwar's speech, the security establishment relayed messages through Egypt and Qatar that Gaza could be attacked, and Israel's response may see other Palestinian areas, not just the West Bank.
Sources confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Egypt began intensive calls in Israel and Gaza to contain any possible escalation and spare the region a new war.
The sources said that Egypt warned Israel against responding in Gaza because there was no indication that the territory or "Hamas" was responsible for the operation and asked the movement not to escalate verbally or practically.
Egypt asked Israel to reduce tension in Jerusalem and the West Bank and deter extremists, said the sources, adding that it also requested "Hamas" stops any form of escalation.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Israel's security service to hit as hard as possible, without political considerations, saying they should do what needs to be done.
It is unclear whether Bennett referred to attacks in the West Bank, Gaza or other places. He previously threatened that he would not be satisfied with striking only the perpetrators of the attacks but also those who incite and send them.
Israeli sources said there is a dispute within the Israeli government about launching a military operation, with Bennett inclined to do so, while Defense Minister Benny Gantz and army leaders oppose him.
According to the Hebrew "Reshet Kan" channel, Israel's political establishment wants to impose sanctions on the Gaza Strip, including banning employees from leaving to work in Israel.
It is a policy that Tel Aviv tested recently after a missile launch from the Strip when it chose an economic response rather than a military one.