Hamas strongman says group against escalation in Gaza

Zahar says the Strip-based group is "committed to the calm" experienced since Cast Lead; tells supporters that the quiet allows the group to rearm.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 24, 2010 17:53
1 minute read.
Hamas supporters at rally in Khan Yunis, Gaza

Hamas rally in Khan Yunis 311. (photo credit: AP)

GAZA CITY — A Hamas strongman in Gaza, on Friday, said the group does not want an escalation in fighting with Israel despite a rise in violence in recent weeks.

Mahmoud Zahar said Hamas is "committed to the calm" that has largely held since Operation Cast Lead in the coastal strip nearly two years ago. But there has been an uptick in rocket and mortar fire into Israel and Israeli military airstrikes on Gaza recently.

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Zahar insisted the unofficial cease-fire is not a sign of weakness. He spoke to thousands of supporters after Friday prayers in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis.

Zahar also hinted that Hamas was using [the calm] to rearm and reorganize, and criticized rivals in the Palestinian Authority for fresh arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank.

On Thursday, the United Nations said that both Israel and Hamas had given indications that they want to reduce tensions in and around the Gaza Strip, Reuters reported.

"We are hearing a clear desire from all concerned to deescalate the situation and respect calm and I appeal for an end to acts of violence," UN special envoy to the Middle East Robert Serry said in a statement.

Several incidents took place in the Israel-Gaza border area in the past week.

Palestinians claimed the IDF killed a sheppard who ventured too close to the security zone along the fence on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the IAF pounded Hamas targets throughout the Strip in the most extensive aerial bombardment since Operation Cast Lead. At least three Hamas operatives were killed in the attacks. The air strikes came in response to multiple attacks on Israel in the days before, including a Kassam rocket that exploded near a kindergarten, as dozens of parents were dropping off their children at school, injuring a 14-year old girl.


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