For the second time since Israel launched its offensive in the Gaza Strip, Hamas television aired a taped message delivered by group leader Ismail Haniyeh on Monday. In the message, Haniyeh declared that Hamas was determined to continue fighting despite Israel's military offensive in the Strip, but added that the group would be willing to cooperate in efforts to negotiate a cease-fire agreement with Israel.
"Gaza will not break - our victory over the Zionists is near," Haniyeh said in a fiery speech. "Our fate is in the hands of Allah, so what power could the sons of Zion against him? Allah will take his revenge on them."
"When we watch over you, residents of Gaza, we draw patience and will power from you," Haniyeh went on to say, adding however that Hamas does not have the physical might to withstand Israel's "war machine."
The Hamas leader ended his address with a prayer.
Haniyeh first appeared on Hamas television some two weeks ago, saying that Israel's operation in Gaza was paramount to genocide of the Palestinian people. Haniyeh and other senior Hamas officials have gone into hiding since Israel launched its operation on December 27.
Meanwhile Monday, other Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip declared victory to be "closer than ever."
In a statement distributed to news organizations, the Hamas cabinet said it continued to function as a government and condemned Israel for its "reoccupation" of Gaza, saying the invading forces would soon be repelled.
"We confirm to our people that victory is closer than ever," the statement read.
"We confirm our intention to continue to work to stop the terrorists' war against our people, end the siege completely and bring about a reopening of the crossings."
A report in Reuters on Monday quoted unnamed sources in Lebanon close to Hamas as saying the group would not accept ceasefire efforts that include a long-term truce with Israel.
Israel launched its offensive on Dec. 27 saying it intended to put a stop to Hamas' firing of rockets across the border into southern Israeli towns and cities.
Following several days of aerial bombardment, Israeli troops and tanks launched a ground offensive, moving in on the major population centres, including the city of Gaza.
Some 900 Palestinians, including some top Hamas commanders, have been killed in the assault, according to Palestinian medics and the Islamist movement.
Hamas, which came to power in Gaza after elections in 2006 and subsequently seized control of the territory of 1.5 million people, said it would remain steadfast.
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