Entries in Hamas (20)


Hamas Leader Dares Israel to Deploy Ground Troops

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) -- Hamas leader Khaled Meshal is calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bluff, a move that could backfire on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza straining to survive an onslaught of Israeli rockets.

As the death toll mounted on the Palestinian side Monday and with no signs of a ceasefire, Meshal dared Netanyahu to follow through on a threat to launch a ground invasion in an effort to end Hamas' own missile attacks on Israel.

Israel has at least 75,000 thousand reservists ready if the Israeli prime minister gives the word.   But Meshal boasted to reporters in Gaza City that Netanyahu would have sent troops in by now if he was serious about an invasion that the Hamas head said was Israel's way to "dictate its own terms and force us into silence."

Meshal also dismissed attempts to reach a truce with Israel, suggesting that the onus was on his group's bitter foe to stop "its aggression, assassinations and invasions" so that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip no longer have to live in fear.

Israel began "Operation Pillar of Defense" last Wednesday following non-stop rocket attacks by Hamas that have gone on for months.  The latest death toll figures put the number of Palestinian fatalities over 100, many of them civilians.  Israel suffered three deaths during the past week and as many as 80 people wounded.

Netanyahu reportedly met with his Cabinet and military leaders Monday night about what Israel's next move will be.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Clarifies Stance on Israel/Hamas Conflict, Egypt’s Role

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland reiterated at Friday’s briefing the United States' position that Israel has the right to defend itself, but that the U.S. also wants to see an end to Mideast violence as soon as possible.

Nuland also stated that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Egypt’s Foreign Minister for the second  time this week, in response to the Egyptian Prime Minister’s visit to Gaza Friday.

“Prime Minister Kandil was in Gaza today, so it was an opportunity to get an update on that visit and to get a sense from the Egyptians, in the wake of the visit, what further steps any of us can take to help a de-escalation,” said Nuland.

But the prime minister and the Egyptian government have publicly said the visit was to show Egypt’s solidarity with Hamas, a U.S. designated terrorist organization. Kandil said Friday that the world should take action against Israel, characterizing the country as the “aggressors” in the conflict.

Despite the fact that Egypt’s rhetoric reflects the exact opposite opinion of the United States, Nuland insisted that all the parties are on the same page.

“I don't think anybody's happy with the current situation and the loss of innocent life on both sides. So it's a matter of the international community and particularly regional states with influence to do what they can to make clear to Hamas that this is not benefiting the cause of the Palestinian people, and it's certainly not benefiting the cause of regional stability,” said Nuland.

Nuland said that despite his fiery rhetoric, the United States views the prime minister’s visit to Gaza as being positive, and that Egypt continues to play a key role in being able to influence Hamas in order to keep the conflict from growing.

“We are encouraging Egypt to use its influence on Hamas. Egypt made the decision that it would be helpful to send the prime minister to see what he could do. We've been in contact with them before. We've been in contact with them afterwards,” said Nuland who added, “That does not in any way indicate that we endorse the public statements that were made in the context of that visit.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration: Hamas to Blame for Gaza Violence

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to the escalating border violence between Israel and the Gaza strip, Obama administration officials have made the U.S. position clear: Hamas is to blame.

Aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the administration strongly condemns the ongoing  rocket fire from Gaza. Carney lamented the civilian casualties among both the Israelis and Palestinians over the last few days, but said it is Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group, which governs the Gaza strip, that is instigating the violence.

“Hamas claims to have the best interest of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause,” Carney said. “Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self-determination.”

This is the worst flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians in several years. After contending with a steady stream of missiles being fired by Hamas into Southern Israel over the course of this year, the Jewish state launched its own offensive on Wednesday, killing Ahmed Jabari, a Hamas military leader. In retaliation, the group launched nearly 150 more rockets at Israel on Thursday. The attack killed three Israelis in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi, with rocket fire reaching Israel’s largest city of Tel Aviv.

In just the last two days at least 15 Palestinians have reportedly been killed, in addition to the Israeli casualties. There are also reports that Israel may be preparing for a ground operation as it moves troops near the border. A ground incursion by Israel into Gaza could signal the beginning of an all-out war.

When asked about the possibility of a ground offensive, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call that the United States respects Israel’s right to defend itself, but would not like to see the conflict escalate further.

“Our view is the Israelis have a right of self-defense when their citizens are faced with the threat of indiscriminate rocket fire from within Gaza. Ultimately it’s up to the Israeli government to make a determination about how they are going to carry out their military objective,” said Rhodes. "But we’ve also said the best course of action would be for there to be a general de-escalation of the violence, but the onus is on Hamas and those with influence over Hamas to help bring about that de-escalation so we don’t see a widening conflict.”

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told ABC News that there are no immediate plans to begin a ground operation in Gaza,  though the military is prepared to do so if needed.

“At this point, we have not received directives from the political echelon to embark on a ground maneuver in the Gaza Strip,” the spokesman said. "We are prepared for the possible expansion of the operation if necessary but are currently engaged in the aerial phase that has included pinpoint targeting of approximately 250 sites. These sites include medium- and short-range rockets, launching pits, storage depots and senior terrorist leaders.”

Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have contacted leaders in Egypt, Turkey and other European allies who have influence with Hamas.

Egypt, whose new governing Muslim Brotherhood party has a relationship with Hamas, also has a binding peace treaty with Israel. Under the previous regime, led by Hosni Mubarak, Egypt was one of the staunchest and most reliable U.S. allies in the region. State Department Deputy spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters Thursday that the administration is imploring Egypt to use its regional influence to help stop the escalating conflict.

But Egyptian officials have publicly said that the Palestinians have the right to self-defense, and diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt have been strained over the violence. This week  Egypt’s ambassador to Israel returned to Cairo for consultations, and Israel’s ambassador to Egypt also returned to Jerusalem before the offensive was launched. On Friday Egypt’s prime minister, Hesham Kandil, will travel to Gaza to speak with Hamas officials.

Toner refused to characterize the substance of the conversations between U.S. and Egyptian officials over the conflict, but said that both countries remain in agreement that the violence needs to end.

“There is a very clear path here to ending the violence and that’s for the rocket attacks to stop, so we would hope that that’s a message that would be delivered,” he said.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israel Extends Air Strikes on Gaza as Hamas Retaliates

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip stretched into another day as Hamas and other militant groups retaliated -- the latest escalation of violence between the two sides that followed Israel's assassination Wednesday of Hamas' top military commander.

Three Israelis were killed in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi by rocket fire Thursday morning.  These are the first Israeli deaths in this escalation.

Israel's Air Force has hit more than 150 targets across Gaza since the operation -- dubbed "Pillar of Defense" -- began Wednesday evening.  The first strike was on Ahmed Jabari, the chief of staff of the military wing of Hamas, the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades.  It was followed by a wave of air strikes on other militants, buildings and installations, notably launching sites and rockets, which included the long-range Fajar rockets that could reach Tel Aviv.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups have retaliated with almost 200 rockets fired into southern Israel, according to Israel's military.  At least three Israelis were killed in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi when a rocket hit an apartment building.

Hamas sources said a dozen Palestinians have been killed, including at least two children.

"We are still at the beginning of the event, not at the end, and we expect some complicated tests ahead," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a nationally televised address Monday night, standing next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has warned that it is ready to enlarge the operation with a ground operation, and reservists have been called up.

Israeli officials say the operation is in response to more than 800 rockets that have landed in Israel this year.  Barak laid out the four goals of "Pillar of Defense": to strengthen deterrence, damage the rocket launching network, hit Hamas and its allies, and to minimize the damage in Israel.

"We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead," the Israel Defense Forces tweeted Monday night.

Hamas warned that Israel will pay a heavy price for Jabari's assassination, with its armed wing saying Israel had "opened the gates of hell."

Hamas announced Thursday morning that Jabari's deputy, Marwan Issa, would take Jabari's place as de facto commander.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israel Assassinates Hamas Commander in Aerial Barrage

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(TEL AVIV) -- The Israeli military said Wednesday its Air Force targeted and killed the top military commander of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in an airstrike that was part of a larger military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Jabari, the chief of staff of the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades and de facto leader of the military wing of Hamas, was killed in what the Israeli military called a "surgical operation" Wednesday  afternoon. Video from the scene showed the charred wreckage of Jabari's vehicle, and Hamas sources later confirmed the leader's death.

Israel accused Jabari of "executing terror attacks" from Gaza against Israel and said he was at the top of their most wanted list. He had previously escaped other assassination attempts.

"The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure," the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. "This was a surgical operation in cooperation with the Israeli Security Agency, that was implemented on the basis of concrete intelligence and using advanced capabilities."

The killing comes after days of Israeli air strikes on Gaza and rocket fire into southern Israel from the Palestinian enclave. A ceasefire had been brokered by Egypt and peace seemed to return on Tuesday, but the assassination of Jabari raises the specter of renewed violence between Israel and Gaza.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) officials told ABC News that in Wednesday's strikes, known as Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF also targeted Hamas' Fajar rockets, longer range Iranian rockets that could reach Tel Aviv from Gaza. The Qatar-based news outlet al Jazeera showed video from the Gaza Strip reportedly of Israeli bombs being dropped on multiple targets.

"This blows a significant blow to the terror organization's underground rocket launching capabilities and munitions warehouses owned by Hamas and other terror organizations," the IDF said in a statement.

"The Gaza strip, has turned it into a frontal base for Iran firing rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. The IDF will continue to target terrorist sites that are used to carry out terror attacks against Israeli citizens."

Hamas and the militant group Islamic Jihad have announced they will retaliate forcefully against Israel, with Hamas’ Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades announcing Israel has "opened the gates of hell."

Before his death Jabari played a key role in the negotiations surrounding the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held for almost six years by Hamas. Around 1,000 Hamas soldiers were released from Israeli prisons in exchanged for Shalit who was handed over to intermediary Egypt by Jabari himself last October.

This is the first time such a senior Hamas commander was killed since Israel's Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and early 2009, during which around 1,400 Palestinians died along with 13 Israelis.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israel, Hamas Agree to 'Unofficial Ceasefire'

Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images(GAZA CITY) -- After days of deadly fighting, Israel and Hamas have agreed to "unofficial ceasefire," BBC News reports.

The fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militants who control Gaza, had worsened in recent days, forcing schools on both sides to close, according to BBC News. Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was prepared to defend itself against any attacks aimed at the country.

"We didn't ask for this escalation and didn't initiate it. But if it continues, we are prepared to embark on a far mor extensive and penetrating operation," he said, according to BBC.

The terms and length of the ceasefire, negotiated with the help of Egypt, are unknown.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syria Denouces Hamas Leader

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime made an unusual condemnation of a longtime ally Tuesday, a further sign of his government's growing distance from the rest of the world.

In an editorial issued by state TV, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal was attacked for selling out "resistance for power" by aligning himself closer to Turkey and Egypt, two governments that have openly criticized al-Assad's crackdown on opponents that has fueled the 19-month conflict costing tens of thousands of lives.

Turkey and Egypt also reaffirmed their support for the Palestinian cause, which undercuts al-Assad's longtime backing of Hamas, making him less important to the militant group.

Hamas started losing favor with al-Assad long before this recent denouncement as most leaders shut down their offices in Damascus and left the capital as fighting there grew more intense.

Making things more problematic for al-Assad is that a number of Syrian Palestinians have joined rebel forces and Hamas is torn between loyalties to the government and Sunni Muslims who form the bulk of the resistance in Syria.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Violence on Both Sides of Gaza Border Kills Three Palestinians 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In spite of a cease fire agreement between Hamas and Israel, strikes on both sides of the Gaza border on Saturday killed two Palestinian men and a 6-year-old boy and wounded an Israeli man, the New York Times reports.

A military spokesperson told the Times the chief of Israel Defense Forces called a critical meeting of senior military officials on the Sabbath to decide how to proceed. The military chief and defense minister both briefed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told them to do what was necessary to protect Israeli citizens, the paper says.

Hamas pledged on Saturday afternoon to continue firing rockets in response to Israeli airstrikes, but Israel's Channel 2 news reported several hours later that a new cease fire with Hamas would start on Saturday night, according to the Times.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


200 Rockets Hit Israel, 23 Gazans Killed

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- The fourth consecutive day of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave of Gaza saw the number of rockets landing in southern Israel climb to more than 190 and the death toll of Palestinians -- most of them militants -- to 23.

At least 40 rockets landed in Israel on Monday, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said, with the closest landing coming around 25 miles from the country’s biggest city, Tel Aviv.  Another rocket hit the city of Ashdod, which has a population of 200,000.

Five Palestinians were killed in the latest attacks, including three civilians.  An 80-year-old Israeli woman was reported wounded by shrapnel in Ashdod, but there have been no Israeli deaths.

The violence marks the worst between Israel and Gaza in over a year, and was started when the Israeli Air Force targeted the leader of the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), one of the militant groups operating in Gaza, accusing the group of planning to attack Israel via Egypt.

The PRC and another group, Islamic Jihad, responded by firing missiles ranging from mortars to Grad rockets.

Since Friday, the IDF has carried out airstrikes in response.  The targets, the IDF said, have been militants, rocket-launching sites and a rocket storage facility.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has not carried out any of the attacks, but Israel holds the group responsible for all militant activity.  Hamas officials have gone to Egypt and asked them to mediate a ceasefire, but the militants say they will continue until the airstrikes stop.

“The Zionist state began this aggression.  It has to stop its aggression first and then we will evaluate the situation and study the possibility of calm,” a spokesman wrote on Islamic Jihad’s website.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Monday to keep up the strikes, promising to “hit anyone who plans to harm us.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hamas Frees Israeli Soldier Held for Five Years

Elana Levi-Zrihan(JERUSALEM) -- An Israeli soldier held by the militant group Hamas for more than five years was turned over to Egypt Tuesday as part of a swap of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Gilad Shalit will be flown to central Israel for a medical check-up before he reunites with his family.

In turn, the first 447 Palestinian detainees are being released, many of whom were sentenced to life in prison.

The deal, announced last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and brokered by Egyptian mediators, is supported by 80 percent of Israelis, according to a recent poll.

Shalit was captured in June 2006 after Palestinians had dug a tunnel to attack an Israeli outpost.  The Israeli Army then launched a major offensive to win the soldier's freedom but the operation failed.

Before Tuesday, the last proof Shalit was still alive was in 2009 after Hamas released a tape in exchange for Israel freeing several prisoners.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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