Hamas defiant as Israel rejects Gaza truceOn 03/01/2019 by admin
Hamas has vowed to fight “until the last breath” if Israel makes good on threats to send ground troops into Gaza after rejecting calls for a truce and pressing on with its air assault.
“We in Hamas are ready for all scenarios and we will fight until the last breath,” senior official Mushir al-Masri told AFP as warplanes pounded Gaza for a fifth day and the Palestinian enclave\’s Islamist rulers hit back with rockets.
“Israel will embark on a veritable adventure if it decides to invade Gaza.
We have prepared surprises for them,” he vowed.
Israel will be defeated: Hamas
In a defiant televised speech, the head of the Hamas government, Ismail Haniya, vowed Israel would be defeated.
“Our people will defeat those tanks,” he said as Israeli media speculated a ground offensive could be just days away.
Despite international appeals for the bloodshed to end, Israel\’s security cabinet rejected proposals for a ceasefire.
Israel to press on with bombardments
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet conditions were not yet ripe to halt the bombardment, launched in response to persistent rocket fire from the territory that Hamas has run for a year and a half.
“We did not launch the Gaza operation only to end it with the same rocket firing that we had at its start,” a senior official quoted Olmert as saying.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak underlined that Israel was “determined to enlarge and deepen” the scope of its military operation “until we have achieved the objectives we have set for ourselves.”
As diplomats scrambled to find a way to stop one of Israel\’s deadliest ever offensives against the Gaza Strip — one that has so far killed at least 394 Palestinians — the UN Security Council was to meet late Wednesday for closed-dooor consultations on Gaza.
International pressure intensifies
French President Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank on Monday, his office announced. In a New Year\’s message, Sarkozy said he will visit the Middle East in a bid to “find a roadmap towards peace.”
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said: “The effort to bring about a ceasefire continues.”
There was no let-up in the violence on Wednesday, with Israel conducting nearly 60 air strikes and Hamas firing more than 60 rockets.
Israel said that among the targets hit was a mosque in Gaza City used by Hamas to store and fire rockets.
Abbas threatens to abandon peace talks
Hamas indicated it would consider any ceasefire proposal that includes an end to the blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza since the Islamists seized power.
“If the aggression is halted unconditionally and the blockade is lifted and the passages are opened, we then can discuss all issues in a positive manner,” the Hamas prime minister said.
The movement\’s exiled head, Khaled Meshaal, made similar comments in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to the Russian ministry.
The White House said it was up to Hamas to make the first move.
“I think President (George W) Bush thinks that Hamas needs to stop firing rockets, and that is what will be the first steps in a ceasefire,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas threatened to abandon peace talks with Israel so as not to support its deadly “aggression” against Gaza.
Israel has warned that its “all-out war” on Hamas could last for weeks. It has massed tanks on the Gaza border, authorised the call-up of 9,000 reservists and warned of a ground invasion.
Palestinian death toll reaches almost 400
Since it started on Saturday, the Israeli offensive has killed at least 394 people, including 42 children, and wounded more than 1,900, according to Gaza medics.
At least 25 percent of those killed have been civilians, the United Nations said.
The bombardment has reduced much of Hamas\’s administrative infrastructure to rubble but has failed to stop rocket fire into Israel.
Since Saturday, militants have fired more than 250 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel, killing three civilians and one soldier and wounding several dozen people.
Five of the rockets fired since Tuesday evening slammed into the desert town of Beersheba some 40 kilometres from the Gaza border – the deepest yet that its projectiles have reached inside Israel.
The bombardment has raised concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, a tiny, aid-dependent territory of 1.5 million people that has been crippled by Israel\’s blockade.
The Red Cross said a breadline queue in driving rain at the only bakery in a refugee camp at Gaza\’s Jabalya stretched back 300 metres on Wednesday.
Bush called Olmert, who assured him Israel was taking “appropriate steps” to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, the White House said.
Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, some 6,500 tonnes of aid have been transferred at the request of international organisations, the Palestinian Authority and various governments, the defence ministry said.
Several Arab countries cancelled New Year\’s Eve festivities in solidarity with Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, celebrations, low-key at the best of times, were particularly subdued.