As offensive rages, Hamas resorts to disinformation

As offensive rages, Hamas resorts to disinformation

Islamic movement claims it struck Tel Aviv, while eulogizing its slain military leader; Abbas condemns rocket fire on Israel

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Palestinians in the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City following an Israeli air strike on November 14, 2012 (photo credit: Abd Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians in the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City following an Israeli air strike on November 14, 2012 (photo credit: Abd Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

As operation Pillar of Defense entered its second day, Hamas was engaged in presenting a show of victory through misinformation while eulogizing the leader of its military wing, who was killed in an Israeli air strike Wednesday.

Hamas’s Izz A-Din Al-Qassam Brigades claimed early Thursday morning that two Fajr-5 missiles reached Tel Aviv “for the first time since the Zionist occupation of Palestine.”

Hamas reported the purported exact time of the launches, 11:57 p.m. and 9:20 a.m., noting that the rockets launched were locally manufactured. In fact, no missiles have hit Tel Aviv.

“The Al-Qassam Brigades have vowed to turn the lives of Zionists into hell and make them regret the moment they decided to assassinate their esteemed leader. The coming days will prove the sincerity of our words,” read a statement by Hamas’s armed wing published by the Palestinian Media Center, a Hamas affiliate.

On Wednesday Hamas eulogized Ahmed Jabari, the Izz A-Din Al-Qassam Brigades deputy commander, slain “in the defense of his people and its sacred values.”

“Commander Jabari frightened the occupation and left it sleepless through quality operations by the Al-Qassam Brigades and his wise  leadership of it, lastly through the prisoner deal [with Gilad Shalit],” Hamas wrote on its official website.

But Hamas has also looked inward. Interior ministry spokesman Islam Shawhan vowed on Thursday to hunt down collaborators with Israel and “those who spread rumors, taking advantage of the Israeli aggression.” Local collaborators are commonly believed by Palestinians to be instrumental in Israeli targeted killings of terror activists.

The Gaza interior ministry also published emergency phone numbers, accusing Israel of engaging in psychological warfare against Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas was caught Thursday between its commitment to the welfare of Palestinians in Gaza and its hostility towards the Gazan political leadership.

In a rare statement, Abbas said Hamas needs to stop its rocket fire on Israel, as he called on both sides to end the violence.

Speaking to France 24 News while in Europe, Abbas condemned the “killing of civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian,” saying the “firing of rockets” has to stop along with “Israeli attacks.”

On Wednesday Abbas condemned only the Israeli strikes on Gaza, calling on the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil Al-Arabi, to convene an emergency league meeting to discuss “the dangerous Israeli escalation and the barbaric aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip.”

An op-ed in PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah called on Palestinians to unite in the face of Israel’s aggression.

“A unified Palestinian position is a natural prerequisite for developing an Arab position,” wrote columnist Adli Sadeq.

Egypt, for its part, has decided to open the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip around the clock, allowing citizens to cross into Egypt. A religious vacation planned for Thursday and Friday which was to have limited the border’s opening hours was canceled, an Egyptian official told the German news agency DPA.

On the political level, Egyptian officials have escalated their rhetoric against Israel Thursday, following a decision by President Morsi to recall Egypt’s ambassador to Israel.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr called on the United States to “stop the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. Amr warned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a phone conversation late Wednesday night that things may “get out of control” if the US does not immediately intervene.

In a press statement issued Wednesday, President Morsi outlined the steps he ordered hours after the first Israeli attack, including withdrawal of the Egyptian ambassador, submitting a letter of protest to the Israeli ambassador in Cairo, and calling for an urgent UN Security Council meeting.

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