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NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza – Israel’s evacuation of Gaza’s Jewish communities is a victory for “Palestinian resistance” and the beginning of the destruction of the Jewish state, senior Hamas leaders said this week, announcing they would next focus their efforts on removing Israel from the West Bank.
“The resistance and the steadfastness of our people forced the Zionists to withdraw,” overall Hamas leader Khaled Meshal told reporters from Beirut. “The resistance is capable of ending the Israeli occupation and achieving all our rights. The armed struggle is the only strategy that Hamas possesses.”
Meshal said Wednesday that Hamas would refuse any efforts by the Palestinian Authority or the international community to force his terror organization to disarm but reiterated he doesn’t want to confront the PA.
“As long as Palestinian lands remain under occupation, Hamas won’t lay down its weapons. … Hamas is not competing with the Palestinian Authority, but we reject attempts to monopolize power.”
Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, explained that now that his organization has taken charge in Gaza, it will next focus efforts on forcing Israel from the West Bank.
“Now, after the victory in the Gaza Strip, we will transfer the struggle first to the West Bank and later to Jerusalem,” Zahar told a European newspaper this week. “We will continue the struggle until we liberate all our lands. This is an important day for the Palestinians and proof that the armed struggle has born fruit.”
Zahar went on to explain Hamas would not stop its attacks until all of Israel is destroyed:
“Neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip, nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don’t recognize the state of Israel or its right to hold onto one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims.”
The comments coincide with recent Hamas announcements it will begin the next phase of its war to destroy the Jewish state by launching Qassam rockets at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and West Bank communities instead of focusing on suicide bombings.
As WND reported, Hamas last month announced on its website: “Afula, Hadera, Beit She’an, Netanya, Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities will all fall within the range of the Qassam rocket. … The implication is that this rocket, which was previously looked upon with disdain by many, will serve as the weapon of choice in the coming period of time, as the acts of suicide martyrdom served as the weapon of choice during all the previous years.”
The site continued: “From a technical standpoint, the Zionist army presently does not have any means to intercept an airborne Qassam rocket. The only possibility, therefore, of stopping the fire, if possible, is to strike the operating cells or the rockets themselves, a moment before they are launched.
“A pre-emptive strike against the attacking cell is a complicated and almost impossible affair. According to the assessments of the Zionist army, the members of the resistance bring the missiles in vans and unload them under the cover of agricultural activity. This makes them more difficult to expose. Furthermore, the timeframe available to the Zionist forces is a quarter of an hour at the most. It takes that long for the resistance members to aim the rockets and activate them at a distance using an electronic timer. To foil the action, the army needs to keep combat helicopters in the air for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is, therefore, highly bothersome.”
The Hamas site went on to explain that to fire on Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, the terror group doesn’t need to improve the range of the current Qassam rocket it uses.
“Jerusalem and other cities will all fall within the range of the Qassam 1 rocket, and there will not even be need for the Qassam 2 rocket.”
Israeli retaliatory raids will not establish deterrence against missile launchings, Hamas stated.
“The only solution, as far as the Zionist establishment is concerned, is severe retaliation for every Qassam rocket launched, in order to teach the Palestinians a lesson and make them think a thousand times before launching any kind of rocket. [But] have all the previous mass murders and the acts of hostility carried out as collective punishment quenched the fire of resistance, or, rather, have they served as a catalyst for the increasing sophistication of the creative methods of the resistance [factions]?”
Israeli security sources say Hamas has been using time gained from a cease-fire agreement signed in February by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stockpile weapons and extend its Qassam manufacturing capabilities to Judea and Samaria.
In March, the Israeli Defense Forces destroyed a large Qassam laboratory in the Samarian village of Al-Yamoun. Earlier, the army arrested 11 members of a Hamas cell in Samaria who admitted during interrogation to producing Qassam rockets and constructing a laboratory for the manufacturing of heavy explosives.
Qassams are relatively unsophisticated steel rockets, about four feet in length, filled with explosives and fuel. The rockets lack a guidance system and are launched by terrorists in nearby towns who reportedly use the rocket’s trajectory and known travel distance to aim at a particular Jewish community.
About 20 percent of Qassams do not explode upon impact.
“As far as rockets go, they may be low tech, but if they land in a population center, they’re incredibly deadly,” Ami Shaked, chief security coordinator for Gaza’s Jewish communities, told WND.
Of particular concern for the Israeli Defense Forces is the development of longer-range Qassam missiles that could strike Jerusalem if launched from certain West Bank areas.
In August 2003, a Qassam traveled five miles from the Gaza Strip into Israel and landed near Ashkelon, the farthest a Qassam rocket has penetrated.
Hamas also recently started manufacturing a new rocket, the Nasser 3, capable of reaching farther than even the updated Qassam, security sources said.