Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas labeled Israel's actions to counter the constant firing of rockets into the Gaza Strip "worse than the Holocaust." Abbas said that Israel's response to the continuous bombardment of western Negev towns by Palestinian terrorists was too severe, saying that its operations which have left at least 80 Palestinians dead on Saturday were unacceptable retaliation to the firing of rockets. The Fatah head was not the only Palestinian leader to be associating the military maneuvers with the Holocaust - exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal described the operations as "the real Holocaust" on Saturday afternoon. "Israeli actions in Gaza since Wednesday is the real Holocaust," Mashaal told reporters in Damascus, where he lives in exile. He accused Israel of "exaggerating the Holocaust and using it to blackmail the world." He also lashed out at Abbas, accusing him of "providing a cover for the Israeli Holocaust" in Gaza by claiming that Hamas terrorists were sheltering al-Qaida terrorists. He also blamed some European countries, without naming them, for keeping silent on Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians. "It is shameful that some Western countries try to clear their conscience with regards to the Holocaust that took place on their own land by being silent on the real Holocaust being committed by Israel against the Palestinian people," he said. Mashaal's multiple references to the Holocaust appeared to be a reaction to a statement Friday by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i who told Israeli Army Radio that Israel had "no other choice" but to launch a massive military operation in Gaza. Vilnai said the Palestinians would be "bringing upon themselves a greater 'shoah' because we will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in airstrikes or on the ground." The Hebrew word "shoah" most often refers to the Holocaust but Israelis use it to describe all sorts of disasters. Vilna'i spokesman Eitan Ginzburg said the deputy defense minister never intended it as a reference to the Holocaust but used the word "shoah" to denote a disaster. "Unfortunately Israel is using a term these days that many avoid using for 60 years," Abbas said in response. Mashaal warned Israel against the "folly" of invading Gaza, saying Israeli soldiers would be defeated by Palestinians who "will fight like lions." The Hamas leader called on Arabs and Muslims worldwide to "go back to the streets in the East and West ... to tell the world that 'we will not stay silent in the face of this Holocaust'."