GAZA CITY Ñ Hamas's political leadership has remained underground in
fear of an Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources said such leaders as Abdul Aziz Rentisi and Mahmoud
A-Zahar have taken refuge in hideouts around Gaza City to avoid being
targeted by Israeli forces and helicopters. The sources said the move was
decided after the Israeli assassination of Ismail Abu Shanab.
The Hamas leaders have been underground for more than two months and
stay out of sight until the end of the year, the sources said. They said
that Israel has prepared a massive ground assault meant to
destroy the organization, Middle East Newsline reported.
The sources said Rentisi and his aides have already appointed
replacements for the leadership. They said the replacements could issue
statements and serve as spokespeople while Rentisi and A-Zahar remain
Meanwhile, Hamas over the weekend has intensified attacks against Israeli
communities and military outposts in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas launched several attacks against the Gush Katif bloc of Israeli
communities in the central Gaza Strip over the weekend. Four Palestinian
insurgents were killed.
Israeli military sources said the Hamas insurgents tried to enter two
communities in Gush Katif on early Sunday. The sources said reconnaissance
units spotted the insurgents and they were killed by ground forces.
The Hamas insurgents appear to have coordinated their operation, the
sources said. They said they expect additional attacks by Hamas and Islamic
Later on Sunday, Hamas gunners fired a Kassam-class short-range missile
toward the Israeli city of Sderot. The missile fell nearby Sderot and nobody
On Friday, Hamas insurgents killed three Israeli soldiers in a base in
the Israeli community of Netsarim south of Gaza City. The dead soldiers were
members of the elite Shimshon battalion who were killed during a
multi-pronged Hamas attack on Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip.
On early Sunday, Israeli infantry and engineering forces destroyed three
uninhabited buildings -- each of them 13-stories apiece and which included a
police station -- several hundreds meters from Netsarim. The sources said
the engineering units brought three tons of explosives to destroy the
buildings, which belonged to the Palestinian Authority's Preventive Security
Israeli military sources said the police station was the launching pad
for Friday's attack on Netsarim while the other buildings were used as a
reconnaissance outposts. Military sources said about 2,000 Palestinians were
evacuated to ensure that the destruction of the buildings, construction of
which began in 1996, would not result in collateral damage.
"The three buildings served for a long time as a reconnaissance outpost
of military activities in Netsarim," Brig. Gen. Gadi Shamni, commander of
Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, said. "The terrorists took their time in
planning their route [to Netsarim] so there would not be any confusion."
Officials said the attack on Netsarim was a joint operation by Hamas and
Islamic Jihad. They said the two insurgents prepared for the attack for from
the nearby Gaza City suburb of Al Zahrah.