Two of Israel's top defense officials said Sunday that Hamas' infrastructure and personnel have been badly damaged by Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip, but felt certain the group would fight on.

Military Intelligence chief Major General Amos Yadlin told the Cabinet on Sunday that the Islamist organization's ability to fight has been hurt by the devastating assault Israel launched Dec. 27.

He said Hamas was now suffering from ammunition shortages and has been hard hit by the deaths of senior militants.

But despite this, Yadlin said the group is not expected to raise a white flag. Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin told the Cabinet that many Gazans were furious with Hamas for bringing a disaster on Gaza.

The officials' comments Sunday were relayed to the press by Israel's Cabinet secretary, Oved Yehezkel.

Yehezkel also told reporters that Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip were hiding in foreign diplomatic missions in an effort to elude Israeli forces.

"The leaders of Hamas and the armed wing are hiding in bunkers, hospitals and foreign missions," Yehezkel said, basing his information on an intelligence briefing received by ministers.

He did not name the missions. Few countries have diplomatic missions in Gaza and even Egypt has withdrawn its staff.

The United Nations says it keeps Hamas militants out of the schools, clinics and other institutions it runs there.

Hamas leaders went to ground and cut communications with journalists when Israel launched its 16-day-old war on Dec. 27 with air strikes on their homes and many other targets.

Even the spokesmen for the Islamist movement have become hard to reach, frequently changing their mobile telephone numbers, but occasionally responding to text messages - if the increasingly unreliable network provides a signal.

"Fear is the last thing we could be accused of," Hamas parliamentarian Mushir al-Masri said on Sunday. "Martyrdom is our dearest wish, but God has ordered us not to pose ourselves as easy prey for our enemies."

Israel has assassinated many Hamas leaders in the past, notably its Gaza chief and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and his successor, Abdul-Aziz al-Rantissi, in 2004.

Since then, Hamas has kept the identity of its Gaza leader a closely guarded secret.

Fatah-affiliated Web site: Senior Hamas military commanders fled to Egypt An Internet site affiliated with Fatah reported Sunday that top ranking members of Hamas' military have escaped to Egypt.

According to the report, some of the most senior commanders of the military wing, including Ra'ad al-Atar, commander of Hamas' military wing in Rafah, and Mohammad Sanwar, commander of Azz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in Khan Yunis and one of the militants reportedly behind the abduction of Israel Defense Forcers soldier Gilad Shalit, managed to flee to the Sinai town of el-Arish.

According to the report, other Hamas seniors, including Yichi al-Abassi, a member of the Hamas government in Gaza, also crossed into Egypt. The report has not been verified by Israeli sources.