Hamas says Israel is fabricating pretext for new Gaza war 14Nov09 November 15, 2009

Haaretz -  14 November 2009

090224barhoumHamas on Saturday accused Israel of fabricating a pretext for a new offensive in the Gaza Strip, after Israel said the Islamist militant group had test-fired a rocket that could reach Tel Aviv.

“These claims are part of the Israeli lies to justify a new aggression on the Gaza Strip,” said Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas’ spokesman in Gaza, in a statement.

“Such threats are coming under the title of incitement and creating pretexts in order to commit more new crimes against Gaza and cover up the previous crimes that were committed during the last war.”

He was referring to the Israel Defense Forces’ winter campaign against Hamas in Gaza, code-named Operation Cast Lead, whose stated goal was to halt cross-border rocket fire by militants in the coastal strip.

Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, director of Military Intelligence, announced last week that Hamas launched a rocket some 60 kilometers into the sea, apparently as an experiment.

Such a rocket, if fired from the northernmost point of the Gaza Strip, could strike the southern cities of the Gush Dan area – including Rishon Letzion, Holon and Bat Yam – and possibly reach as far as Tel Aviv itself.

In the statement on Saturday, Barhoum called on Arab and Islamic states to sever ties with Israel in response to the IDF officer’s comments.

Barhoum’s statement also came after the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, said Friday that the army would not hesitate to respond if Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip continued to fire rockets at Israel.

“We are prepared to contend with the whole arc of threats,” Ashkenazi told students during a visit to a Be’er Sheva high school, citing both the local defense situation as well as Iran’s contentious nuclear program.

Meanwhile, Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing has said he could not confirm or deny that the group had test-fired a rocket, “since such news come from the occupation [Israel].”

“These threats are an evidence that the Israeli occupation had failed in its last war on Gaza to achieve its goals,” he said. “The occupation is trying to escape from the international condemnations by fabricating such lies.”

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