[QODLink]
Middle East
Israel continues Gaza assault
Hamas warns Israel against ground offensive as group's field commander dies in bombardment.
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2009 16:08 GMT

Israeli aircraft continued to pound the Gaza Strip for the eight straight day [AFP]

A field commander of the armed wing of Hamas has been killed in the continuing Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Abu Zakaria al-Jamal, a senior figure in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, died of his wounds on Saturday after Israeli jets bombed his home overnight.

His death came as Israel kept up its deadly assault on Gaza for the eighth straight day. Hamas vowed to defeat the Israeli army if it invaded the territory.

"If you commit the stupidity of launching a ground offensive, then a black destiny awaits you," Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, said in a speech.

"You will soon find out that Gaza is the wrath of God," he said.

Aerial bombardment

Meshaal's warning came as Israeli soldiers, tanks and armoured personnel carriers massed along Gaza's border, preparing for what many speculated could be a ground offensive.

IN DEPTH

Latest news and analysis from Gaza and Israel

Send us your views and videos

Watch our coverage of the war on Gaza
Medical officials say at least 437 people have died in Gaza and 2,250 have been injured since Israel's aerial bombardment began last week.

Four Israelis have been killed in the same period by Palestinian rockets, including longer-range weapons that have hit the port of Ashdod and the desert town of Beer-sheva.

On Saturday, Israel's military said more than a dozen rockets have been fired over the border.

Palestinians also reported more Israeli air strikes across the Gaza Strip. A school was among the buildings bombed by the Israelis.

Israeli jets have fired more than 700 missiles into Gaza since the assault began last week.

'Psychological warfare'

Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said: "The Israeli military continues to pound targets everywhere in the territory. On the eighth days of attacks people here are very much terrorised by what is going on.

"The Israeli military is engaging in very aggresive psychological warfare. They have been dropping leaflets warning Palestinians that they have to flee their homes and warning that anyone who lives in area that could be a possible target that their home will be targeted as well. 

"So that is causing a ripple effect of fear, but the question is where do 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza go".

Trucks carrying more than 200 tonnes of Syrian Red Crescent aid left Kura Al Assad for Gaza on Saturday as concerns for a looming humanitarian disaster grew.

Israel says that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and that it has increased its shipments of goods into the territory.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Azmi Bishara, an Israeli-Palestinian and former Knesset member, said: "Mostly, the war against such a place – slums and refugee camps - can only be a war crime.

"Whatever the military result, the political situation would be the same. What is called in American language the axis of moderation, or the moderates in the Arab world, have already had a blow, they are weaker than before.

"I think this is the only practical 'achievement' of the war that the people who are for the settlements in the region are less legitimate now and weaker than they were before the war.

Blame game

Meshaal, speaking from the Syrian capital of Damascus on Friday, said Palestinians in Gaza were ready for any land offensive made by the Israelis. 

"This battle was imposed on us and we are confident we will achieve victory because we have made our preparations.

"Our position is clear. We will not give in. Our resolve cannot be broken," he said.

"Our demand is also clear. The war must end, the siege lifted, and crossing points open without restriction."

Meshaal says Hamas is prepared to handle an Israeli ground offensive [AFP]
But George Bush, the US president, in his first public comments on the hostilities, said Hamas had "instigated" Israel's war on Gaza, referring to the rocket attacks on Israel's southern towns.

"There must be monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end," he said in remarks prepared for his weekly Saturday radio address.

Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official in Beirut, told Al Jazeera that the party to be blamed for the present situation is Israel, not Hamas. 

"It's clear now that Israelis are blocking all the political solutions. The main question is supposed to be what will be the right end for this? And the clear answer is ending the occupation."

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Nir Rosen, a Beirut-based journalist, said: "There isn't very much [Hamas] can do except resist and withstand the Israeli assaults.

"These attacks are described as an Israeli retaliation which is ridiculous. Every Palestinian act of resistance is a retaliation for 60 years of occupation and dispossession.

"This use of violence is essential to Zionism, in an attempt to crush the Palestinian spirit to crush the Palestinian resolve."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Some scientists say authorities in favour of nuclear energy tend to deny the negative results of researchers.
Report on child sex abuse in British Asian community highlights issues that may affect the entire nation.
Taliban makes quick gains in Afghanistan with little opposition from Afghan army as US withdrawal begins.
Experts from Minamata, Japan check for signs of mercury illnesses in Ontario, Canada.
Record numbers of migrants have made harrowing sea journeys to Italy and Greece this year.
join our mailing list