Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri 311 (R).
(photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)
Hamas said on Saturday it would escalate it attacks against Israel to include a wider range of targets deeper into Israeli territory if the IDF failed to halt its aerial assaults on the Gaza Strip.
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Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri blamed Israel for an escalation in violence. "If the Israeli escalation continues, amid international silence and complicity, the reactions by resistance factions will broaden," he told Reuters, saying such actions would be necessary to protect Palestinians in Gaza.
At the same time as it made the threats, however, the group seemed to be
attempting to deescalate the situation in the Gaza Strip, which has
left more than a handful of its commanders dead.
Abu Zuhri also said that Hamas operatives did not intend to target
Israeli schoolchildren when they fired a guided missile at a school bus
two days ago,
critically wounding a teenager and sparking the latest round of border
"It was not known that the bus targeted on the outskirts of Gaza carried
schoolchildren," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters, adding that the
road where the bus was travelling was often used by IDF vehicles.
Officials in Jerusalem said that the government received a request from
Hamas' political wing asking for a cease fire Saturday afternoon, Israel
Radio reported The request was reportedly delivered through
intermediaries, according to the officials.
Additionally, an Israel Radio report quoted Palestinian security
officials as saying that the decision to escalate the situation by Hamas
was made by the commander of its armed wing, Ahmed Jabari, against the
wishes of its political leadership in Gaza and Damascus.
According to the Palestinian source, Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail
Haniyeh accused Jabari of "megalomania" for his actions in escalating
the situation, according to the report. He added that Jabari's decision
to escalate the situation was partly motivated by the assassination of
his close friend, Ismail a-Lobed, who was the organization's point man
for smuggling weapons into Gaza from the Sinai Peninsula.
Lobed was apparently Hamas' contact person with Beduin smugglers and his
assassination presented a huge loss of smuggling routes for the
organization, Israel Radio quoted the source as saying.
The current escalation began on Thursday when Hamas used an anti-tank
missile against a school bus in the Gaza border region. A 16-year-old
boy was critically injured in the attack.
In the following 48 hours, the IDF has forcefully gone after terrorists
launching rockets and mortars, but also after Hamas commanders. At least
18 Palestinians, a majority of them Hamas men, have been killed in the
Early Saturday morning, three Hamas commanders were killed in an IAF air
strike on a car in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Palestinian news
agencies reported a fourth Hamas man was killed in an IDF strike a few
Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Strip have fired dozens of Grad
rockets and some 100 mortar shells into Israel since Thursday. At least
five of the Grad rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome rocket
defense system outside Beersheba and Ashkelon.Reuters contributed to this report