x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hamas says it is honouring truce

The Islamist Hamas is observing a truce with Israel but is ready for a resumption of hostilities, a spokesman for the group¿s armed wing has warned.

The Islamist Hamas is observing a truce with Israel but is ready for a resumption of hostilities, a spokesman for the group's armed wing has warned.

"There is a truce in effect in the field. It is real if Israel stops its aggression and ends it's siege. But if there is any Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip we will respond strongly," said a masked spokesman for Hamas' al Qassam Brigades who identified himself as Abu Obeideh.

Speaking at a press conference with three guards, who were all masked and armed, he said the group was ready to repel any future Israeli invasion and hinted at a secret weapon.

"We are completely ready to answer any Israeli aggression," he said. "Our weapons are few compared to those of the Israeli occupation, but we have something that will worry the occupation," he said without giving details.

Israel's military said this week that one of its tanks patrolling the Gaza border had been hit by a Russian-made Kornet anti-tank rocket, the first time such a weapon had been encountered there.

However, Ahmed al Jabari, the head of the al Qassam Brigades, had a much more militant message for Israel, saying Hamas would not rest until Israel was ousted from all Palestinian lands and Israelis faced either two choices: "death or departing Palestinian lands".

"Our resistance will continue as long as the Zionists remain," said a letter signed by Mr al Jabari, published in a Hamas magazine.

Their comments come a day after a senior political leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement, Mahmud Zahar, also said Hamas was committed to the truce in effect since the January 2009 end of the 22-day Israeli offensive on the strip aimed at halting rocket fire by Palestinian militants.

But it also comes amid rising tension along Israel's border with the tiny coastal enclave.

Overnight, Israeli warplanes hit four targets in the Gaza Strip, wounding at least two people and knocking out power in a large swathe of the strip.

The strikes came after militants fired a mortar and rocket into Israel on Friday, according to the army, which called the target a "terror centre".

A total of 23 mortars and four rockets have been launched at Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip since Sunday, the army said. One of the rockets struck near a kindergarten in a southern Israeli kibbutz, wounding a teenage girl.

On December 18, Israeli warplanes hit central Gaza, killing five militants as they were about to launch a rocket attack, according to the army and witnesses.

While most of the rockets fired have been by other groups, Israel still says it holds Hamas, which rules the strip, responsible for maintaining calm there.