Hamas: IDF Will Face Catastrophe if Invades Gaza Strip

Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal calls Israel a 'cancer that must be pulled out by the roots.'

Hamas' military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, warned Thursday that if Israel attempted a full scale invasion of the Gaza Strip, it would face many "surprises."

A spokesman for the group said at a press conference that Hamas fighters were involved in an ongoing effort to upgrade their abilities to wage war.

The spokesman also said that the Israel Defense Forces operation in the northern Gaza Strip that resulted in the death of six Palestinians near Khan Yunis on Thursday was an attempt to cover up Israel's failure to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, abducted by Hamas militants following a cross-border raid on June 25.

"The enemy finds itself in trouble every time its forces enter a few meters into Palestinian territory, so what will happen to it if decides to occupy the entire Gaza Strip?" the group's spokesman said. "It will be a catastrophe for its forces... We expect no mercy from the occupation and we know that the Palestinian people will have to sacrifice victims."

Meshal: Israel is a cancer that must be pulled out by its roots Exiled Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal on Thursday called Israel a "cancer that must be pulled out by its roots."

"The time has come for the Palestinians who have been scattered throughout the world return to their homes, and Arabs and Muslims should lend a hand to impose this on the world," Meshal added.

Meshal made the comments during a dinner breaking the Ramadan fast in Damascus, and the statements were also published on a Hamas-linked Web site.

Earlier Thursday, Meshal said that while Israel does exist, he refuses to recognize its legitimacy, and blamed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the delay in the release of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

In an interview to the Arabic daily al-Hayat, Meshal blamed Israel for the fact that Shalit remains in captivity saying "what's causing his release to fail is Olmert's stubborness."

According to Meshal, the greatest hurdle in the matter is Israel's insistence that Shalit be released before any Palestinians jailed in Israel are freed in a prisoner exchange.

Meshal said he acknowledges Israel's existence, but would won't recognize its existence as legitimate.

Hamas accused Fatah on Wednesday of foiling Qatari efforts to broker the establishment of a Palestinian unity government and said that through its actions, Fatah was offering political support for Western sanctions against Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's Hamas-led government.

The senior Hamas official in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, told a press conference that Hamas remained committed to a unity government, but that Fatah was determined to overturn the Islamic party's victory at the polls during the January elections.

"We remain committed to a unity government. Our hands are stretched out to this and what we presented to the Qatari foreign minister guarantees its achievement," Hamdan said.

"The one who is ruining all the efforts is the [Palestinian] Authority president [Mahmoud Abbas] and his team. They are providing political cover for American-Israeli sanctions."

Aides of Abbas warned earlier this week that he might appoint an emergency government or call early elections after the latest efforts to form a unity government failed.

Hamas has denied that talks are at a dead end, but said that the latest initiative, presented in Gaza by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, was unacceptable because it included recognition of Israel. According to a statement issued by Haniyeh's office, the Qatari Foreign Ministry assured the Hamas leader that it would continue its brokering efforts.

Hamdan said that Fatah was declaring that talks had failed because it wants them to fail.

"They don't want a unity government, since [U.S. President George W.] Bush told them this," he said. "This team's [Fatah] final objective is to overturn the choice of our people by any means and to implement a program that frees [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert from his political impasse and serves America's vision of the New Middle East."

"We welcomed the Qatari mediation from the start," Hamdan continued. "We were surprised when Abu Mazen [Abbas] and his team said that their agreement to any plan was linked to U.S. backing for it."

Since its rise to power, the Hamas government has suffered sanctions by the international community because of its failure to meet the three conditions posed by the Quartet for aid and recognition: relinquishing violence, recognizing Israel and accepting previous agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Qatar replaced Egypt in the effort to mediate between Fatah and Hamas on a unity government following a breakdown of talks between Hamas and Egyptian officials.

Jordan's King Abdullah warned the feuding Palestinians Wednesday that their hopes of statehood could be permanently wrecked within months unless they step back from the brink of civil war.

Palestinians have to put aside internal differences and face other challenges, he said, citing what he described as a growing right-wing camp in Israel that pursues an uncompromising "fortress Israel" mindset rather than "integration in the region."