GAZA CITY ø Hamas has acknowledged that about a third of Palestinian
casualties in the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip comprised
fighters of the Islamic insurgency movement.
Hamas said 25 members of the Izzedin Kassam military wing were killed in
the week-long Israeli military operation in the northern Gaza Strip. In a
communique, Hamas said one of the insurgents was the brother of the
movement's spokesman, Mushir Al Masri.
"Our rifles will stay aimed at the enemy as long as it occupies our
land," Hamas said. "Our martyrs were killed in these days of rage witnessed
in the northern Gaza Strip. Our response to these massacres won't take too
Hamas's acknowledgement of casualties came as Palestinian sources
reported a debate within the insurgency group whether to appeal for a
ceasefire. The sources said the Palestinian Authority urged Hamas to agree
to end missile attacks on Israel in exchange for a withdrawal of the
military from the northern Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources said about 80 Palestinians have been killed in the
Israeli military operation. They said more than a third of the casualties
were civilians. On Tuesday, two Palestinians were reported killed in
fighting in Jabalya.
The Israeli group B'Tselem asserted in a report that 40 percent of the
Palestinian casualties in the current Israeli military operation were
civilians. Israel's military said the lion's share of Palestinian casualties
were armed combatants and that insurgents were using civilians for cover.
On Tuesday, Israeli main battle tanks, attack helicopters and troops
focused their operations in Bet Hanoun and the Jabalya refugee camp. The
camp has about 90,000 residents and regarded as the stronghold of Hamas and
the focus of Kassam-class short-range missile production.
Meanwhile, Israeli military sources expressed doubts over a government
charge that the United Nations allowed Kassam missiles to be transported in
the organization's ambulances. On Tuesday, Israel's military removed from
its web site five video clips provided by an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle
and the sources said the footage would be reexamined.
One of the clips removed was said to have shown Palestinian combatants
loading missiles into a UN Relief and Works Agency ambulance. The UN said
the vehicle shown in the Israeli video was being loaded with stretchers.
Over the last day, Israel's military has released additional video clips
that show UN vehicles near Hamas operations. Military sources said UN
vehicles have been summoned by Hamas insurgents to serve as shields against
"There has been a clear terrorist use of UNRWA vehicles for the
transport of terrorists," Brig. Gen. Shmuel Zakai, commander of Israeli
forces in the Gaza Strip, said.
In Washington, the State Department said it could not confirm the
Israeli claim that Hamas used UN vehicles for the transport of Kassam
missiles. The United States provides more than $100 million in annual aid to
"We, too, have seen those reports," State Department deputy spokesman
Adam Ereli said. "I'm not in a position to validate them for you. Obviously,
if resources of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees were
misused in this way, it would be unacceptable."