Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal said on Thursday night that Israel’s ground operation in Gaza was destined to fail, in remarks to AFP in the Qatari capital.
“What the occupier Israel failed to achieve through its air and sea raids, it will not be able to achieve with a ground offensive. It is bound to fail,” Mashaal declared from his exile in Doha.
He further said Hamas has “clear demands”, including an end to “the aggression and collective punishment against our people…as well as the lifting of the Gaza siege.”
Mashaal insisted that the “source of the problem lies with the Israeli occupation and the construction of settlements” which he said the Palestinian Arab people are “determined to get rid of sooner or later”.
The Hamas leader also called on the international community to “assume its responsibility and put an end to Israeli terrorism..
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza said earlier that “Israel will pay a high price” for launching the ground operation and that Hamas “is ready for the confrontation.”
“With this action the Israeli government seeks to restore the morale of its soldiers and the morale of its army leadership – a leadership that is collapsing because of the qualitative blows of the resistance,” the spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, claimed.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said earlier Thursday that the ground assault on Gaza was meant to hit the terrorist tunnels leading from Gaza into Israeli territory, and noted that the operation was a direct result of Hamas’s refusal to accept Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire.
Barhoum’s threats came several hours after Osama Hamdan, who is in charge of foreign affairs in Hamas, threatened that Hamas has additional “surprises” in store for Israel.
“In the next campaign,” he promised, “we plan to manufacture larger missiles, and we will plan the liberation of the land (inside Israel) and its annexation to the liberated territory (in Gaza) and we will attack them by land.”
Meanwhile, Egypt has blamed Hamas for the current escalation in Gaza, though it also pointed a finger at Israel for launching a ground attack.
According to Kol Yisrael radio, the Egyptian government said it was placing the responsibility on Hamas for “the possible deaths of Palestinian civilians”, citing Hamas’s refusal to accept Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire.
The report quoted Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, as having said that had Hamas accepted the ceasefire proposal, it would have saved the lives of at least 40 Gazans who were killed in Israeli airstrikes.
In a statement quoted by AFP, however, Egypt’s foreign ministry also denounced Israel’s “escalation” in Gaza and again demanded both sides accept a Cairo proposed truce.
“Egypt condemns the Israeli escalation in Gaza and calls for self-control as its air strikes and ground operation only aggravate the situation and do not help preserve Israel’s security,” the foreign ministry said.
It said both Israel and Hamas must “immediately and unconditionally accept the Egyptian (ceasefire) proposal as it offers protection to the Palestinian people. It is the only way to halt the aggression and preserve the blood of our brotherly Palestinian people.”
Egypt’s envoy to Ramallah, Wael Nasr Eldine Attiya, urged Egyptians in Gaza to be “extra cautious and avoid places that could be targeted” by Israeli forces.
He also urged Egyptians “willing to leave Gaza to head to Rafah crossing…so they can enter Egypt,” the official news agency MENA quoted him as saying.