Hamas threatens to "kill Jewish children anywhere in the world"
January 5, 2009
Hamas: Israel has legitimised the killing of its children
As fighting intensified on the northern outskirts of Gaza City today, a top Hamas leader broke cover to warn Israel that the Islamists would kill Jewish children anywhere in the world in revenge for their own young who have died in the devastating assault. "They have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine," said Mahmoud Zahar, in a televised broadcast recorded at a secret location. "They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people." Mr Zahar, a hard-line political leader, made his first appearance since Israeli launched its offensive against his organisation. Dressed in a dark suit and as he read the statement, he declared "Victory is coming, God willing."
As night fell on the territory, most of which is now without electricity, the dark sky above Gaza was illuminated by explosions and flares from the pitched battle on Gaza City's northern fringes, where Israeli tanks, helicopters and artillery fought to dislodge Hamas guerrillas. Witnesses said the battle had, for the first time, spilled into Gaza City itself, where the head of Hamas' armed=2 0wing warned thousands of his determined fighters were waiting for the invaders. Abu Obeida, the leader of Hamas' military wing, made his first appearance on Gaza television, his face masked in a red and white scarf, to goad Israeli forces massed on the fringes of the teeming city of 400,000 people. "We have prepared thousands of brave fighters who are waiting for you in each corner of the street and will welcome you with fire and iron," he said. "We tell you in all confidence that your defeat in the Gaza Strip is approaching with eve ry hour. "
Despite increasingly international calls for a ceasefire, neither side has shown the slightest intention of backing down. Israel, supported by the outgoing Bush administration in the United States, rejected European calls for an immediate ceasefire reiterated during a peace mission by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President. It argues that it needs to break Hamas' military capacity if a durable ceasefire is to be negotiated.
Hamas, meanwhile, kept firing its rockets into southern Israel, launching around 40 of its home-made Qassam rockets and more sophisticated Grad missiles into Israel. It again hit the city of Beersheba, around 25 miles inside Israel. While Israeli forces have stormed into the north-eastern area of the Gaza Strip from which Hamas usually launches its projectiles, the Islamists have maintained their fire from with Gaza City itself, thwarting the army's mission to curb the endless barrages.
Many analysts believe that Hamas wants Israel to move into its stronghold, a hellish landscape for urban combat which the Islamist have had 18 months to prime with hidden booby traps, ambushes and tunnels. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli soldiers raided the house of a Hamas militant only to find three separate tunnels underneath through which their quarry escaped. It added that Hamas reports of kidnapping an Israeli soldier stemmed from an incident in which the soldier became separated from his unit in a gun battle, and the Hamas men tried to drag him away down a tunnel. He escaped in a scuffle and fled back to his unit, it said.
Mr Sarkozy, part of a high-level EU effort in the region to negotiate a truce, said he would tell Israel in meetings tonight that "the violence must halt". Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah leader whom he met in Ramallah today, also called for an unconditional truce. Mr Sarkozy quickly ran foul of Hamas though when he said it must bear most of the blame for the increasingly miserable plight of the 1.5 million Gazans it rules over.
"Hamas acted in an irresponsible and unforgiveable manner... Hamas is to blame for the suffering of the Palestinians," he said. A Hamas spokesman quickly accused the French leader of "total bias" towards Israel.