Hamas Military Wing spokesman.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Hamas leaders said over the weekend that they were interested in maintaining calm with Israel, and warned against a new IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.
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The Hamas statements came in response to threats by Israel to launch a military strike on the Gaza Strip following a spree of rocket and missile attacks.
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Some Palestinians said that the Hamas messages were a clear indication that the movement was not interested in, or prepared for, another massive IDF operation.
Mahmoud Zahar, one of the prominent leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said during a rally in Khan Yunis on Friday: “We have abided by the calm with the occupation out of strength and a readiness for sacrifices.
This is not a sign of weakness, but strength.”
Zahar also sent a strong warning to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank because of its continued crackdown on supporters of the movement.
He accused the PA of forging a “devilish alliance” with Israel to target “our conscience, men, women, children, mosques, institutions and universities” in the West Bank. He said that the purported alliance wouldn’t last forever because “the occupation entity which is protecting [the PA] will also disappear.”
Zahar also warned that Palestinians in the West Bank might one day revolt against the PA, as was the case in the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Addressing the PA leadership, Zahar asked: “Haven’t you learned from the past? Haven’t you learned the lesson? Don’t you think? Weren’t you responsible for the corruption? Didn’t you have the Preventative Security Force, the General Intelligence Service and the Military Intelligence Force?” Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said that reports about an impending IDF attack were exaggerated. “We must deal with caution with Israeli threats [to attack the Gaza Strip],” Abu Zuhri said. “There’s no need to exaggerate these threats so as not to give Israel a chance to achieve its goal in waging a psychological war on the Palestinians.”
The armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam, announced over the weekend that its men have fired 10,981 rockets and mortars at Israel since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000.
Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the group, told reporters in the Gaza Strip that 68 percent of the attacks on Israel occurred after Israel pulled out of the area in 2005.
He added that 93 Hamas suicide bombers were killed in attacks on Israel during the same period.
He said that the latest tensions along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel did not scare Hamas, which, he stressed, was still interested in preserving the calm.
Accusing Israel of “playing with fire,” Abu Obaida said: “If the occupation wants to test us, they will get a harsh response from us. We call on them not to try this stupidity. The enemy knows very well that we are capable of repelling any aggression.”
The Hamas spokesman said that his movement nevertheless sought to “spare our people war and aggression.”
But, he cautioned, Israel will pay a heavy price “for any crime it commits.”
Muhammad Deif, the overall commander of Izzadin Kassam, said in a message to Israel marking the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of his movement: “You will cease to exist and Palestine, with its Jerusalem, Al-Aksa Mosque, villages and cities will remain ours, from the river to the sea. You have no right to one inch of this land and we will never surrender to you as long as there is one Muslim on the face of this earth.”
Ahmed Ja’bari, another leader of the armed wing of Hamas, said that “Zionist occupiers face one of two options: death or leaving.” He said that Hamas was ready to confront a new IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.
Overnight Friday, IAF planes attacked targets in the northern and southern Gaza Strip.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said that “a terrorist cell was attacked in the northern Gaza Strip, and a smuggling tunnel in southern Gaza.”
The attack came as a response to a Kassam rocket shot into Israel early Friday evening.
The rocket exploded in an open field near Ashkelon.
No injury or damage was reported.