A senior Israeli cabinet minister has threatened to kill the leader of the militant Hamas movement ruling Gaza.
Housing minister Yoav Gallant, a former military general who commanded the Gaza region, said Hamas leader Yehiyeh Sinwar should “recalculate his route” before the next engagement.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, he said: “Yehiyeh Sinwar’s time is limited. He will not end his life in an old folks’ home. He has to behave himself.”
Israel and Hamas recently stepped back from the brink of their fourth war in a decade thanks to an Egyptian ceasefire.
Palestinian militants fired 460 rockets and mortar shells into Israel last week in 24 hours, in response to a botched Israeli raid that left seven Palestinian militants and a senior Israeli officer dead.
Israel responded with a wave of air strikes. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed, while a Palestinian laborer working in Israel was killed by a Gaza rocket. It was the heaviest fighting since the 2014 Gaza war.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the time was not right for a wider confrontation in Gaza, but he has come under heavy criticism for agreeing to a ceasefire.
Defense minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned in protest, accusing Mr Netanyahu of being soft on terrorism, and another hardline minister threatened to do the same – which would have sparked early elections – before backing down.
In the wake of the political crisis, and with early elections still a distinct possibility, ministers have begun talking tough about the next round of fighting.
“We are now close to a no-choice war against Hamas in Gaza. We must strike hard to restore deterrence,” intelligence minister Israel Katz told the conference.
“Any attack on Israeli soil must be met with a tough response … if Sinwar or (Hamas political chief Ismail) Haniyeh were to fire a bullet or a rocket at a soldier or Israeli citizens they will pay with their heads.”
Israel assassinated Hamas leaders Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi in 2004, and tried to kill another leader, Khaled Mashaal, in 1997. The killing of senior members of the group has had no discernible impact on its operations or ideology.