Hamas has warned Israel against waging war on the Gaza strip in retaliation for the deaths of three kidnapped Israeli youths, threatening that “the gates of hell will open” should action be taken.
The response came after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed: “Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay”, following the discovery of the bodies of the three missing youths yesterday.
The Israeli military struck 34 targets across the Gaza Strip overnight after more than 20 rockets were fired from the territory into Israel since late Sunday.
Hamas, however, responded warning against any broad offensive on the territory. Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: “Netanyahu should know that threats don’t scare Hamas, and if he wages a war on Gaza, the gates of hell will open on him.”
Mr Netanyahu said the teenagers “were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by human animals”, as he convened an emergency meeting of his security cabinet.
Overnight Israel launched more than 34 air strikes on the Gaza Strip. The strikes followed around 18 rocket attacks on southern Israel from Gaza since Sunday night the Israeli military said.
According to reports Israeli troops also flooded into the Palestinian town of Halhul where the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers were found.
Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship, disappeared on June 12 while hitchhiking home from the Jewish seminaries where they were studying near the West Bank city of Hebron.
Despite the dangers, hitchhiking is common among Israelis travelling in and out of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
In an operation codenamed Brother’s Keeper, Israel dispatched thousands of troops across the West Bank in search of the youths, closed roads in the area and arrested 400 Hamas operatives throughout the territory.