Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Friday pledged that the current 'intifada' against Israel will continue as it is the will of the Palestinian people.
"There are those who try to bury the al-Quds (Jerusalem) intifada, but this intifada will continue and it is the option of the people, the nation and the entire generation," he said at a rally in Gaza ahead of the Palestinian Prisoner's Day.
In the address to Hamas's military wing, the Izzadin Kassam brigades, Haniyeh stressed that the issue of releasing Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails has been a top priority for the terrorist group since the 2006 capture of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit and until the end of the last escalation with Israel during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
"We call on the [Hamas] battalions to purge the prisons and release the prisoner heroes from the jails of the occupation," he said. "The prisoner issue isn't one of Gaza, the West Bank but of the entire [Palestinian] nation since the entered the prisons while defending the honor of the nation."
Earlier on Friday, Israeli Radio reported that a Hamas official claimed that Hamas was not interested in an escalation of violence and was committed to a truce with Israel, despite recent reports that it was strengthening its military wing and upped its deployment along the Gaza border.
According to the radio station, the official said that Israel has audio messages from Hamas claiming the group has no interest in an escalation of violence, although the source added that Hamas continues to deploy fighters and build its military wing. Any decision to go to war will come from the political branch of Hamas and not its military wing, the source concluded.
Israel Radio also reported that Hamas was stepping up its deployment along the border between Gaza and Egypt, and had established new outposts.
On Thursday, an IDF source confirmed that the IDF’s intelligence on Hamas’s military wing in Gaza has increased greatly over the past two years, and the Southern Command’s war preparations have been enhanced as a result.
The Southern Command is carefully monitoring Hamas’s 25 regional battalions and has prepared detailed files on each one as part of preparations for ground forces that could, in the event of a future escalation, be sent in to Gaza to land “painful strikes” on Hamas, according to the source.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.