Hamas: Israel has legitimised the killing of its children
James Hider in Jerusalem
Fighting intensified on the northern outskirts of Gaza City yesterday as a
Hamas leader warned that the Islamists would kill Jewish children anywhere
in the world in revenge for Israel’s devastating assault.
“They have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the
children of Palestine,” Mahmoud Zahar said 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 made his first appearance since Israel launched its offensive.
Dressed in a dark suit, he declared: “Victory is coming, God willing.”
As night fell on the territory, most of which is without electricity, the 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 that the
battle had, for the first time, spilled into Gaza City itself, where the
head of Hamas’s armed wing warned that thousands of his fighters were
The Israeli military said last night that three of its soldiers were killed
and 24 wounded by a shell from one of its own tanks in a battle near Gaza
Abu Obeida, the leader of Hamas’s military wing, made his first appearance on
Gaza television, his face masked in a red and white scarf, to goad Israeli
forces massed outside 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.
Despite growing 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 President Sarkozy
of France. Israel argues that it needs to break Hamas’s military capacity if
a durable ceasefire is to be negotiated. “We cannot accept a compromise that
will allow Hamas to fire \ against Israeli towns in two months’ time,” Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert told Mr Sarkozy last night.
Hamas, meanwhile, kept firing rockets into southern Israel, launching about 40
of its home-made Qassam rockets and more sophisticated Grad missiles. They
again hit Beersheba, about 25 miles from Gaza. While Israeli forces have
stormed into the northeastern area of the Strip, from where Hamas usually
launches its projectiles, the Islamists have maintained their fire from
within Gaza City.
Many analysts believe that Hamas wants to goad Israel into its stronghold, a
hellish landscape for urban combat, which the Islamists have had 18 months
to prime with booby traps, ambushes and tunnels.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli soldiers raided the house
of a Hamas militant only to find three tunnels underneath through which
their quarry escaped. It added that Hamas’s reports of kidnapping an Israeli
soldier stemmed from an incident in which the soldier became separated from
his unit and the militants tried to drag him down a tunnel. He escaped after
a scuffle, it said.
Mr Sarkozy, part of a high-level EU effort in the region to negotiate a truce,
told Israel that “the violence must halt”. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian
President and Fatah leader, whom he met in Ramallah yesterday, also called
for an unconditional truce.
Mr Sarkozy ran foul of Hamas when he said that 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 accused Mr Sarkozy of “total bias” towards Israel.
550 Palestinians have been killed in Operation Cast Lead
100 of the dead are children
2,500 Palestinians have been wounded
4 Israeli civilians have been killed since the operation began, and
four Israeli soldiers. Seventy-seven soldiers have been injured
Source: Gaza medical services, Israel Defence Forces