Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar warned Saturday that if there is a war between Israel and Gaza, Israel will be forced to evacuate Tel Aviv and Jewish communities on its southern border.
“If the Gaza Strip is dragged into war, Israel will suffer. It will not only have to evacuate the communities around the Strip, but also [the cities of] Ashdod and Ashkelon and even Tel Aviv,” Sinwar said, according to a report from Al-Aqsa TV.
“Our fingers are on the trigger and they will remain pressed against it in order to protect our people. We will be the sword and shield,” he continued.
Sinwar also thanked Egypt for brokering a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel on March 22 at 19:00 GMT. The cease-fire follows weeks of violent clashes sparked by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli communities. One rocket struck a home in central Israel and injured several people.
Israel responded by destroying several Hamas targets in Gaza.
“We have strengthened our relations with Egypt,” Sinwar said of the ceasefire. “The Egyptians have thankfully played a big role in the easing of the restrictions.”
According to Hamas, the Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire included the expansion of Gaza’s fishing zone, the delivery of Qatari funds, and the reopening of the border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The ceasefire came as Gazans commemorated the one-year anniversary of the “Great March of Return” which are weekly protests encouraged by Hamas officials on Israel’s southern border.
On Friday, more than 10,000 Gazans protested and rioted along the Gaza border.
Sinwar said the ceasefire agreement doesn’t include any plans to stop the weekly marches.
“The understandings are not an alternative to Palestinian unity and partnership,” the Hamas leader explained. “There is no talk about the Palestinian right to resistance in all its forms, especially in the West Bank. Also, there is no talk about halting the March of Return.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas against any more violent attacks.
“We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state," Netyanhu said while addressing the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington D.C. last month.