Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeida said on Saturday that Hamas was hoping to maintain the unofficial ceasefire with Israel but was prepared to respond to hostility on the part of Israel. Abu Obeida was speaking at a news conference marking two years since the start of Operation Cast Lead.
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The military wing of Hamas, also known as Iz al-Din al-Qassam, took the opportunity of Saturday's press briefing to claim official responsibility for the first time for terror attacks including ones in Hebron, at the Rimonim junction and at Jerusalem's Merkaz Harav Yeshiva. A total of 15 Israelis were killed in those attacks.
Abu Obeida acknowledged that his organization has fewer weapons than Israel but said it has something that should worry Israel a great deal. He declined to provide details, but promised that it would surprise Israel.
Iz al-Din al-Qassam commander Ahmed al-Ja'abari struck a more belligerent note yesterday, saying in a statement issued in his name that Hamas will not rest until Israel is ousted from all Palestinian lands and that Israelis faced two choices: "death or departing Palestinian lands." According to the letter, "Our resistance will continue as long as the Zionists remain."
Hamas faces growing criticism within the Strip for not conducting operations against Israel, on one hand, and over the absence of real change in Gaza on the other. It appears not to want a military confrontation with Israel at this time. At the same time, the leadership seeks to demonstrate that it does not fear such a confrontation.
On Friday, senior Hamas political leader Mahmoud Zahar said Hamas did not want to escalate the situation with Israel. He hinted Hamas was using the lull to rearm, and criticized the PA for recent arrests of Hamas activists in the West Bank.