Hamas: Forget Schalit if leaders are hit

Spokesman warns suicide bombings and kidnappings of troops will be renewed.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Hamas's armed wing said Saturday that Israel can forget about the release of kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Schalit if it targets the Islamist movement's senior leaders. "The Zionist enemy must understand one message - that it can only dream of getting Gilad Schalit and forget about him completely if it assassinates a political or military leader of Hamas," said Abu Obaida, a spokesman for Izaddin Kassam, Hamas's armed wing and one of three groups holding Schalit in the Gaza Strip. A senior official in Jerusalem dismissed the Hamas threat regarding Schalit, vowing that Israel would not be held hostage to terrorist threats and would continue to act to defend its citizens. "Israel will pursue the return of Gilad Schalit as if there are no rocket attacks," the source said, "and pursue terrorists as if there was no Gilad Schalit." Abu Obaida also said that Hamas planned to abduct more IDF soldiers and to carry out suicide bombings "in the near future." Hamas, he added, was preparing a harsh response in the event that Israel killed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. "We are continuously developing our methods of resistance," Abu Obaida said. "It's only a matter of time before our rockets reach targets beyond Ashkelon. The Zionist attacks will not destroy the Palestinian resistance. Hamas has remained strong despite the assassination of many of its leaders in the past." Haniyeh said on Saturday that Israel was waging a "real war against the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." This war, he said, was aimed at "forcing our people to succumb to external dictates." Haniyeh appealed to the Arab world to urgently move to halt "Israeli massacres" against the Palestinians. Representatives of several armed groups in the Gaza Strip reiterated their opposition to a renewed cease-fire as long as Israel continued to attack Hamas figures and installations. "We have already tried truces with Israel," said Abu Mujahed, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees. "We will not repeat the mistakes of the past, when we offered Israel a truce in return for nothing." Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, said it opposed a truce with Israel without assurances from the international community. "We will not accept a truce with Israel unless Israel meets all our conditions," the group said in a statement. "The Israeli aggression must stop immediately in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [Israel] must release all our prisoners and withdraw to the 1967 borders." Meanwhile, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met over the weekend with leaders of Palestinian factions in Gaza City and discussed the possibility of declaring a new cease-fire with Israel. Sources close to Abbas said he proposed that the factions declare a one-month truce as a first step toward a comprehensive cease-fire that would include the West Bank. During the one-month truce, the factions would stop firing rockets at Israel, the sources said, adding that the faction leaders had promised to study the proposal. Israel has categorically rejected calling off IDF operations in the West Bank as part of efforts to restore the cease-fire in Gaza. Jerusalem believes that only the daily anti-terrorist operations security forces carry out in the West Bank prevent Hamas and Islamic Jihad from carrying out attacks inside Israel. Miri Eisen, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman, made it clear: "There is no way Israel will agree to a West Bank truce - not now and not in the future," she said. "Abbas should be very wary of making promises like this that Israel will not accept." Officials note that since Abbas agreed to a cease-fire in Gaza in November, rockets have been fired at Israel almost daily.