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Senior leaders of Hamas and PIJ, meanwhile, have reportedly gone into hiding out of fear of being targeted by Israel.
Defiant Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) officials on Tuesday threatened to step up their attacks on Israel after some of their senior military commanders were killed in Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip. The two terror groups said in separate statements that they will continue their rocket attacks until Israel “halts its aggression” on the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. They also accused Israel of targeting innocent civilians, including children.
By Tuesday evening, only two groups – PIJ and Humat al-Aqsa – had officially acknowledged the death of their members. Unconfirmed reports said that at least four senior Hamas members were killed in Tuesday’s attacks by Israel.
Senior leaders of Hamas and PIJ, meanwhile, have gone into hiding out of fear of being targeted by Israel, according to sources in the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas has not abandoned the equation that says that bombings will be met with bombings,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum. “The brave Palestinian resistance, at the forefront of which is the al-Qassam Brigades, has taken upon itself the responsibility to protect our Palestinian people, and to respond strongly and directly to the occupation’s violations and crimes against our people in Jerusalem and worshipers in the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the targeting of civilians and children.”
Barhoum claimed that Israel decided to “transfer the battle to the Gaza Strip after it failed to break the will and determination of the resistance that defends the people and protects their interests.”
The Hamas official said that his group and other Gaza-based factions will “continue to repel the [Israeli] aggression with full force, notwithstanding the sacrifices.”
Earlier, Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the al-Qassam Brigades announced that his group launched one of the biggest rocket attacks on Ashkelon and Ashdod. He claimed that 137 rockets were fired at the two cities “within five minutes” and said that Hamas has many more rockets.
Another Hamas official, Maher Salah, warned that the Israeli “aggression will open the gates of hell everyone and transfer the conflict to unprecedented levels.”
Salah said that Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel were aimed at sending “a clear message to the world that we will preserve our national identity and principles.” Hamas, he added, will not allow Israel to “assault the al-Aqsa Mosque or threaten our people with expulsion and displacement,” reference to a court order to evict a number of Arab families from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah that belonged to Jews before 1948.
PIJ, for its part, threatened to avenge the killing of some of its top military commanders who were killed in Israeli air strikes in the past 24 hours. The group identified three of its slain commanders as Sameh al-Mamlouk, Kamel Kraikei and Mohammed Abu al-Ata.
PIJ’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for the firing of the rockets at Ashkelon, where two women were killed and dozens injured. It said that its members used “Badr 3” missiles to target Ashkelon. The missile is known to carry an explosive warhead weighing 250 kg, and has a range of more than 160 km.
Abu Hamzeh, a spokesperson for the al-Quds Brigades, said that his group will continue its attacks on Israel “as long as the [Israeli] aggression on Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the occupied 1948 territories continues.” The “occupied 1948 territories” refers to areas in Israel proper.
“Our response to the targeting of our innocent civilians and the assassination of our mujahideen (warriors) will be harsh,” Abu Hamzeh added. “The enemy should wait for our response any time.”