Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, said Saturday that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had shot down proposals to target Hamas leaders for assassination during his time as premier.
Speaking to Channel 12, Liberman noted that Netanyahu was the one who approved the release of the terror group’s current leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, as part of the prisoner exchange deal for Gilad Shalit back in 2011.
Netanyahu “was the one who prevented any attempt to kill the heads of Hamas,” the minister who once served as defense minister under Netanyhu said.
Sinwar had spent decades in an Israeli prison after being convicted in 1989 of conducting the kidnapping and execution of two Israeli soldiers. He was known by his Israeli interrogators as “the Butcher from Khan Younis” due to his enthusiastic execution of Palestinians alleged to have collaborated with Israel.
In response, Netanyahu’s Twitter account wrote that he had instructed on the killing of top Hamas leader Ahmaed Jabari in 2012, and had ordered Operation Guardian of the Walls extended in an effort to kill Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, the head of Hamas’s military wing.
“Under Netanyahu Hamas knew it would pay a price. Under Bennett they feel his weakness and grow bold,” it said.
Liberman said any resumption of targeted killings of terror leaders needed to be discussed in the security cabinet.
Israeli officials have reportedly indirectly warned Sinwar that it could retaliate against the group for encouraging a series of recent deadly terror attacks.
While Hamas has not taken responsibility for most of the attacks since March 22 that have left 19 people in Israel and the West Bank dead, Sinwar has repeatedly called for Palestinians to assault Israelis and the group has publicly praised the perpetrators, encouraging more attacks.
The terror group also claimed responsibility for an attack that killed a security officer guarding the West Bank settlement of Ariel on April 29.
According to Channel 12 news, diplomatic and security officials relayed a message to Sinwar that the Ariel attack, coupled with his messages championing terror, gave Israel freedom to respond militarily in Gaza.