Hamas warns of new border breach

Official: Group can't stop suffering Gazans; spokesman warns Israel against targeting leaders.

Haniyeh  224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Haniyeh 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinians will breach the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip again if the blockade of the coastal territory continues, a senior Hamas member warned Monday, defying an Egyptian threat to "break the legs" of anyone who violates the frontier. The comments by Said Siam threatened to worsen already strained relations between Gaza's Hamas rulers and the Egyptian government. "We cannot stand in the face of people while their sons are dying before their eyes," Siam told the pro-Hamas weekly newspaper al-Risala. "It's a clear matter. Not resolving the problem of the border crossing and maintaining the boycott means the possibility that the situation will explode again. We are not striving toward [that], but we also cannot avoid it," Siam said. Siam said Hamas was in touch with the Egyptians about reopening the Rafah border crossing and urged speed on the issue. Hamas operatives blew open the Gaza-Egypt border on January 23, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to flood across the frontier unchecked for 12 days. Egypt allowed the Palestinians to cross but resealed the border last week. On Monday, Egypt's Foreign Minister renewed his warning that Egypt would "break the legs" of Palestinians breaching the frontier. His comments were published in the London-based daily, al-Hayat. Aboul Gheit told the London-based daily that Hamas could not operate the crossing - a suggestion floated by the group - because to do so would imply Israel no longer had any responsibility toward Gaza as an occupying power. Aboul Gheit said Hamas could have a role in administering the crossing with the agreement of its bitter rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah party. But Abbas has ruled out any role for Hamas, which defeated his forces in June and took control of Gaza. A spokesman for Hamas brushed off Aboul Gheit's comments, saying Hamas' relations with Egypt were not "built on media statements." "Aboul Gheit doesn't express the true Egyptian position. To the contrary, there's continuing contact between Hamas and Cairo," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told The Associated Press. Meanwhile on another front, Hamas threatened to respond with "unprecedented" force to any attempt by Israel to assassinate its leaders. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Hamas's newspaper Palestine on Monday that targeted killings by Israel would force the group to use "all possible means" to avenge the act. Abu Zuhri spoke after the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi quoted Palestinian sources Monday as saying that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, fearing an attempt on his life by Israel, has gone underground. According to Al-Quds, after Haniyeh was reportedly placed at the head of Israel's assassination list, Hamas security took steps to increase security around the heads of the organization, especially Haniyeh. "Only a few of Haniyeh's bodyguards know where he is," the sources said. Other key Hamas figures believed to be at the top of Israel's "hit list" include Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam. According to Al-Quds, Zahar has enjoyed increased popularity among Gazans since his son was killed by the IDF. Sources told the newspaper that some even saw Zahar as the "head" of Hamas. On Sunday, a number of ministers called to assassinate Hamas leaders. Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said that "[Israel's] job is to bring Hamas's leaders to justice and justice upon them. In Gaza, they don't understand any other language. We must take determined action against terror." Vice Premier Haim Ramon said that "anyone involved, directly or indirectly, with the war crime [of firing rockets] needs to be in the IDF's crosshairs." Al-Quds also said that Islamic Jihad has taken steps to secure the safety of its leaders.