Hamas said on Thursday that it views Israel's intentions to extend its sovereignty over parts of the West Bank as a declaration of war.
"This wretched decision and plan, we'll not talk at length, but say it shortly and clearly – the resistance considers the decision as a declaration of war on the Palestinian people. The resistance is ready to protect its people and its holy places," said Abu Ubaida, the spokesman of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of the Hamas movement.
Abu Ubaida gave the statement to mark the anniversary of the capture of Israeli soldier Giald Shialit by Hamas militants in a cross-border raid via tunnels near the Israeli border.
Hamas held him captive for over five years, until his release on 18 October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal.
The spokesman also mentioned the possibility of holding a prisoner exchange deal with Israel, saying it was a priority for the terrorist group.
"We remind the Zionist enemy that there will be no deal without the release of senior prisoners and prisoners with blood on their hands," Abu Ubaida said.
Reports emerged in April that the terror faction showed willingness to negotiate a prisoner exchange deal with Israel due to the coronavirus outbreak, but later announced that little progress had been made in that regard.
The terror group reportedly refuses to call the potential exchange a "deal", but rather a "humanitarian initiative" that would see Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed - held captive by Hamas - be freed in exchange for Palestinian elderly prisoners currently in Israel’s jails.
Hamas also holds the bodies of two fallen soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.