Marking 200 days of war, Hamas calls for escalation across all fronts

Terror group’s spokesman says Iranian attack on Israel ‘set new rules’ for confronting Jewish state, calls increased action against Israel in the West Bank and Jordan

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024. (AP/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024. (AP/Abdel Kareem Hana)

DUBAI — The spokesperson for Hamas’s armed wing the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Obeida, called on Tuesday for an escalation across all fronts in a televised speech marking 200 days since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

The war began with the shock Hamas assault on October 7, when thousands of terrorists invaded southern Israel, killing nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages.

Israel launched an aerial assault and ground offensive in Gaza in response, vowing to eliminate Hamas and end the terror group’s rule of Gaza.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry has placed the Palestinian death toll since October 7 at over 34,000 people, although this figure cannot be independently verified and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel says it has killed some 13,000 Hamas gunmen in battle, as well as some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

In a video aired by Al Jazeera TV, Abu Obeida praised Iran’s attack on Israel on April 13, saying the direct strikes with hundreds of explosive drones and missiles “set new rules, drew important equations, and confused the enemy and those behind it.”

Israel and regional allies largely repelled the attack, with only minor damage to a military base, and one person, a seven-year-old girl, seriously injured.

He also called for an escalation in the West Bank and Jordan, which he called “one of the most important Arab fronts.”

Palestinians wave the national flag and celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the southern Gaza Strip fence east of Khan Younis on October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Yousef Masoud)

Jordan, which lies between Iran and Israel, intercepted and shot down dozens of Iranian drones that entered its airspace and were heading to Israel, two regional security sources said earlier this month.

“We call on the Jordanian people to step up their actions and raise their voices,” Abu Obeida said.

He said Hamas was sticking to its demands at the ongoing ceasefire talks – that Israel end its military offensive, pull out forces from Gaza, allow displaced Palestinians to return to northern Gaza and lift the military blockade.

“The government of the occupation is stalling in reaching a hostages-swap deal and is trying to obstruct efforts by the mediators to reach a ceasefire agreement,” Abu Obeida said.

Qatar and Egypt have been trying to mediate a truce that would see the release of Israeli hostages, but Qatar foreign ministry’s spokesman Majed al-Ansari said earlier on Tuesday all concerned parties should “show seriousness” in allowing such efforts to succeed.

Israel has said Hamas’s demands for an end to the war are a non-starter.

Washington has argued that Israel has agreed to some major concessions in the talks, but that Hamas has refused to budge on its demands.

Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (R), ruler of Qatar since 2013, in a meeting with Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh (L) and official Khaled Mashal in Doha, October 17, 2016. (Qatar government handout)

Abu Obeida’s comments also come as the Gulf state said it had no plans to end Hamas leaders’ presence in the country as negotiations continue. “As long as their presence here in Doha, as we have always said, is useful and positive in this mediation effort, they will remain here,” al-Ansari told a press conference.

Doha has rebuffed frequent criticism of its mediation from Israel, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Reports circled around the past couple of days saying that Hamas’s political chiefs were exploring moving their base of operations out of Qatar, with Oman serving as a potential option.

The Wall Street Journal noted that if Hamas leaders were to leave Doha, it could be more difficult for negotiations to be held with the terror group.

Qatar has hosted Hamas’s politburo leaders since 2012.

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