A young Palestinian loyal to Hamas stands under the stage in front of a poster depicting late Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin during a rally in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday that the group will never stop digging tunnels and upgrading rockets in preparation for any possible confrontation with Israel.
Haniyeh, who is also Hamas’s deputy chief, spoke to a crowd of worshipers in a Gaza City mosque during prayers that were followed by a funeral for seven gunmen killed in a tunnel collapse.
“There are heroes east of Gaza City, digging the rocks and building tunnels. And west of Gaza, heroes are testing rockets every morning and every day and it is all preparations.
Under the ground and above the ground, in tunnels and above the ground and into the sky, with rockets and in the sea and everywhere, it is the permanent preparation for the sake of Jerusalem and Palestine, and for the sake of the intifada of Jerusalem and the sake of our people,” Haniyeh said.
The Hamas men were killed when a tunnel collapsed close to the Gaza Strip’s eastern border with Israel, the Islamist group’s armed wing said on Thursday.
It said the collapse occurred on Tuesday night as a result of heavy rain and it took two days to find the bodies and announce the deaths. Mosques across the Palestinian enclave mourned those killed, calling them “Martyrs of the Preparation,” a reference to their work digging tunnels used to attack Israel.
In a statement delivered by his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “alarmed” by the recent statements from Hamas leadership in Gaza stating their intention to continue building tunnels and firing rockets at Israel.
“Such statements and actions put at risk reconstruction, humanitarian and development efforts by the international community and Palestinian and Israeli authorities,” Ban said. “They also do a serious disservice to the long-suffering people of Gaza.”
The secretary-general added that after three major conflicts in the past seven years, people in Gaza and the people of southern Israel deserve a chance for peace and development.”
He also reiterated that he condemns terrorism “in all its manifestations” and added that every effort must be made to improve the living conditions of the people of Gaza.
Meanwhile, Hamas affiliated media sources reported on Saturday that one of the group’s naval operatives died overnight during a mission at sea opposite the Gaza coast, Israel Radio reported.
Palestinian media initially reported that the deceased was a fisherman who drowned when he fell off his boat.
Israel news outlet Walla named the commando as Hamdi al-Sultan, adding that he died while carrying out a “jihadi mission.”