FEB 6 2009



Netanyahu secretly warns Hamas

Threatens to wipe out leadership in Syria, Gaza if rockets continue

TEL AVIV, Israel Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu  leading by a wide margin ahead of next week's prime ministerial elections has secretly issued a stern warning to Hamas that if its rocket campaign continues once he's in power, he will not hesitate to eliminate the terror group's leadership in both the Gaza Strip and Syria, WND has learned.


The warning is particularly strong, since Hamas' leadership in Syria is protected by the Damascus regime. Israel traditionally shies away from threatening attacks on Syrian soil. The Jewish state took great care during its 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon to not strike targets too close to the Syrian border for fear of bringing Damascus into the conflict. One year later, though, Israel targeted a nascent Syrian nuclear reactor being built with aid from North Korea.


According to both Israeli and Palestinian sources intimately familiar with the threats, Netanyahu this week conveyed a secret message to Hamas through a third Arab party in which he stated he will undoubtedly be Israel's prime minister next week. Netanyahu's message warned if Hamas' terrorist attacks continue from Gaza, he could target its top leaders in both Gaza and Syria even if such actions would result in a confrontation with Syria.


Hamas' overall chief, Khaled Meshaal, and other top Hamas leaders, reside openly in Syria.


"I'm very serious about this," Netanyahu's message continued, according to the sources.


The sources said the threats until now have only been known by a small number of individuals in Natanyahu's camp, Hamas and a third Arab party.


Responding to the threats, Ahmed Yousef, Hamas' chief political adviser in Gaza told WND today, "We don't care what Netanyahu says."


"We don't pay any attention to these threatening statements. We are people still living under occupation. We have right to defend ourselves," Yousef continued, speaking to WND from Gaza.


The threats come as senior Israeli defense ministry official Amos Gilad headed to Cairo today to meet with Egyptian mediators over continued negotiations for a truce with Hamas in Gaza.


Since Israel wrapped up its military campaign against Hamas last month, a number of rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip aimed at nearby Jewish communities.


On Sunday, while Hamas signaled it was willing to enter a cease-fire with Israel, WND reported members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared military wing of the U.S.-backed Fatah party, took responsibility for a barrage of five rockets and five mortars fired from the Gaza Strip. The attack lightly wounded two Israeli soldiers and one civilian. One of the rockets reportedly landed between two Jewish kindergartens.


Earlier this week, a long-range Grad rocket fired from Gaza landed in the strategic port city of Ashkelon, which houses an electricity plant that supplies about 70 percent of Gaza's power.


All major polls here have projected a major win for Netanyahu and his Likud party in next week's elections. Aside from his policy on Gaza, Netanyahu has said his primary goal as prime minister would be to halt Iran's alleged drive to obtain nuclear weapons.


Describing Iran as the biggest threat facing Israel, perhaps since the state's founding in 1948, he said at an international conference here this week, "we will act, on a real level in order to neutralize this danger."







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