Gaza-based Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called on Saturday for Palestinians to wage a “popular uprising” in the West Bank.
Urging a renewal of intifada “resistance,” Haniyeh praised the “heroic martyrs” responsible for a series of recent terrorist attacks in the West Bank, in which two soldiers were killed, a retired army colonel was bludgeoned to death, and a nine-year-old girl was shot and lightly injured. In the latest suspected terrorist attack, on Thursday, a Palestinian man rammed a tractor through the gate of an army base north of Jerusalem and was shot dead by IDF forces.
Speaking at celebrations marking the second anniversary of the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, Haniyeh said the deal was a “historic achievement” for the Palestinian people but charged that more needed to be done to free “all the prisoners.”
He also called for the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to be stopped, adding that there would be no peace and security so long as the Al-Aqsa Mosque was “in danger.”
The Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) — a coalition of armed Palestinian factions — said that “capturing Israeli soldiers is the effective way and strategy to liberate Palestinian prisoners,” using the Shalit deal as “a reliable example to break the Israeli shackles,” the Hamas-run website Qassam.ps reported on Saturday.
The PRC called for a “national strategy” to free the prisoners.
Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, claimed Saturday that Hamas now has “a greater capacity” to carry out kidnappings.
Shalit was kidnapped in southern Israel in a 2006 Hamas raid in which two IDF soldiers were killed, and held hostage in Gaza for five years.
Hamas on Saturday tweeted news from the anniversary celebrations using the hashtags “Devotion of the Free” and “Ahmad al-Jabari,” the Hamas military commander who oversaw Shalit’s capture and who was killed by Israel at the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
— Alqassam Brigades (@AlqassamBrigade) October 19, 2013
Despite Saturday’s bravado, Hamas has been feeling the squeeze as of late, following the coup in Egypt which ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July, and in which the new Egyptian rulers have cracked down on Gaza, blowing up tunnels running into the Sinai and sporadically closing the Rafah crossing. The Palestinian Authority has also cracked down on the Islamist terror group, raiding homes and arresting its members in the West Bank. Analysts say Hamas feels that another kidnapping is all it will take for its stance in the region to be restored.
Last week, the IDF revealed that it had uncovered an underground tunnel linking Gaza and Israel, likely intended to facilitate a terror attack or kidnapping attempt inside Israel.
The tunnel, which an official said was particularly wide and about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long, started in Abbasan al-Saghira, a farming village near Khan Yunis, in Gaza, and terminated inside Israel about three kilometers from Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, in the western Negev.
It was found on October 7, military officials said.
On Monday Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, indirectly acknowledged his organization’s responsibility for digging the sophisticated tunnel.
“The tunnel which was revealed was extremely costly in terms of money, effort and blood. All of this is meaningless when it comes to freeing our heroic prisoners,” he wrote on his personal Facebook page.
“It would not have been possible to free hundreds of our prisoners without the Shalit tunnel,” the Cairo-based Hamas leader continued.