Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman holds a weapon during a visit to Sderot.
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday said Hamas is trying to strengthen its presence in south Lebanon and to attack Israel from there.
“It must be understood that Hamas, which finds it hard to carry out attacks from the Gaza Strip, is currently trying to launch attack from the West Bank and is also trying – in new arenas, first of all in southern Lebanon – to threaten the State of Israel,” he said at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
Liberman said that Israel has been following the growing relationship between Hamas and Hezbollah.
“We will not allow [a situation where] on the one hand Hamas talks about the humanitarian crisis [in Gaza] and on the other hand it will try to carry out terrorist attacks from the West Bank or to build terrorist infrastructures in southern Lebanon,” he said.
“The sudden friendship between senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri and Hezbollah [chief] Nasrallah is something we are following, and every development will have an appropriate response.”
Liberman made similar comments in August when he met with Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations. He charged Arouri with attempting to “boost the relationship between Hamas and Hezbollah... under an Iranian umbrella, and with the assistance of the Revolutionary Guard and [its leader] Qassem Soleimani.”
Arouri is reported to be living in Dahieh, a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, after being kicked out of Qatar. In October, he led a Hamas delegation to Iran, meeting with senior Iranian officials including international affairs adviser Ali Akbar Velayati and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Arouri also met with Nasrallah in Beirut in early November where the two agreed to strengthen the relationship between the two terrorist groups.
Liberman made the comments after visiting the two border police Yamam officers who were wounded in Jenin on Wednesday night after an exchange of gunfire during an operation to capture the killers of Rabbi Raziel Shevach
, who was murdered last week in a shooting attack near the outpost of Havat Gilad.
During the operation, one Palestinian was killed and two others arrested.
The operation to capture the remaining suspects is ongoing, with hundreds of soldiers deployed for the search, after Palestinians announced that the body of the remaining terrorist within the cell that was behind the attack was not found inside the building destroyed by the IDF in Jenin.
Israeli security forces are also searching for additional suspects and the weapons they used during the attack on Shevach.
“I want to thank again the security forces for the excellent work, for their courage and for their professionalism. The war on terrorism is not a one-time event – it’s a continuous effort,” the defense minister said, adding that the IDF will catch the terrorist who managed to escape.
“We will get him soon and settle our accounts with him. He should know that he is currently living the life of a fleeing dog. He is living on borrowed time – will catch him.”
According to Liberman, Israel’s security establishment knows “everything” about the cell that carried out the attack and those who aided them.
“We will reach everyone. No one will walk around freely. We will reach them all and they will pay the full price.”Shevach, 32
, a resident of the Havat Gilad outpost in central Samaria, near Nablus, was shot 22 times last week, close to his home in a drive-by attack on Route 60. He was married with six children – four daughters and two sons – ages eight months to 11 years old.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, Hamas issued a statement praising the murder.
“We bless the heroic Nablus operation, which comes as a result of the Zionist occupation’s violations and crimes at the expense of our people in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” the terrorist organization said.