Hamas warns Israel after overnight airstrike kills one

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Palestinians carry the body of Abdallah al-Telbani, during his funeral in Gaza City 28 December 2011. (Photo: REUTERS - Mohammed Salem)

Published Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hamas warned that it will defend itself by any means in the wake of another Israeli airstrike on Gaza overnight that killed one, and wounded roughly 20 others, a Hamas official said.

Israeli jets hit the car of Abdallah al-Telbani, a 22-year-old member of Islamic Jihad, killing him instantly as he was driving with his friends near his residence in the Jabaliya refugee camp, Ihab Ghousain, spokesman for Gaza's interior ministry, said.

Ghousain denied Israeli military claims that the strike targeted Palestinian militants planning cross-border attacks on Israel from Egypt, saying that Telbani had no connections to any recent operations.

"He [Telbani] wasn't doing anything, he was near his residence with his friends. He doesn't have any connection with any operation at the moment," Ghousain told Al-Akhbar by phone from Gaza, adding the Israeli accusation was "just so the Israelis can have a reason to strike Gaza."

Israeli warplanes struck a second jeep heading east of Gaza City, injuring eight people in an attempt to target a Hamas member in the vehicle.

Israel again accused the member of attempting a cross-border attack from Egypt, but Ghousain denied this allegation, revealing that the targeted member was an employee of the interior ministry in Gaza.

"He works in the interior ministry and with national security, but he wasn't at work, he was just in his car with his friends," Ghousain said.

Ghousain could not confirm Israeli reports that a rocket had struck the southern Israeli area of Shaar Hanegev in retaliation for the airstrikes, but ruled out direct Hamas involvement.

Israel has conducted several airstrikes in recent weeks against Gaza in an apparent attempt to escalate tensions with the Hamas-ruled enclave.

Israel's latest attacks on Gaza are partly an attempt to deflect attention from the recent prisoner exchange deal involving Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinian detainees, Ghousain said.

The Hamas spokesman also noted that the attacks came as Palestinian factions engage in reconciliation efforts to end internal divisions.

"They [Israel] don't want us to reconcile. The strikes are a way for the Israelis to try and stop the reconciliation," he said.

Ghousain said Israeli efforts to undermine the reconciliation process will not succeed, reiterating Hamas' commitment to the talks.

"We [Hamas] insist on continuing the reconciliation steps and we should have a unity government very soon. We should not follow the Israeli or the American process," he added.

When asked about Hamas' strategy to respond to recent Israeli airstrikes, the Hamas official said it was still committed to restraint, but warned its patience was running out.

"We [Hamas] have made a decision to maintain calm [in Gaza], but if Israeli strikes continue, there might be another Palestinian agreement on returning to using any way to defend ourselves."

"All Palestinian factions agree to remain calm, but if [Israeli] strikes continue, this won't last long," he warned.

Israel maintains a siege on the Gaza Strip, and a military occupation of the West Bank, while continuing to expand illegal Jewish settlements.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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