Hamas: Israel escalates military strikes for political purposes

15:10, March 24, 2011      

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Islamic Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, said Wednesday that the Israeli military escalation in the coastal enclave was motivated politically.

"The systematic escalation aims to achieve political goals but will not terrify Hamas or the Palestinian people," Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told Xinhua.

Abu Zuhri's remarks were in response to Silvan Shalom, Israeli vice premier, who said that the army may have to unleash a new large-scale military operation in Gaza in response to increased rocket attacks by militant groups there.

Shalom told Israel Radio that the new offensive should topple the Hamas regime by targeting leaders of Gaza groups rather than just tunnels and open areas.

Tension has been high since Saturday, when Hamas fired tens of mortars and missiles towards Israeli army posts and Jewish communities near Gaza, ending a fragile ceasefire that had held since Israel completed a three-week invasion here in January 2009. Up to 1,400 Palestinians were killed in that invasion.

On Tuesday, Israel killed eight Palestinians, half of them civilians, in two separate strikes in Gaza City. Four Israeli mortars landed in a neighborhood in the city, killing three young people and an elder man. The second strike hit a car traveling on a street and the four militants inside were killed.

On Wednesday, Palestinian militants fired rockets towards Israel, saying the attacks were in response to Tuesday's raids that killed the eight Palestinians.

The armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement said it fired a Grad rocket towards Ber Sheva city in Western Negev. Israel Radio reported that a man was wounded moderately.

Source: Xinhua
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