Hamas vows to rearm


JERUSALEM (JTA) –The armed wing of Hamas said it would rearm despite calls to halt arms smuggling into Gaza.

"Do what you like, but the manufacturing of holy weapons is our goal," Abu Ubeida, spokesman for Hamas’ Izzadin Kassam military wing, said Monday at a news conference in Gaza, Reuters reported. The spokesman covered his face with a checkered keffiyah.

"Bringing arms into Gaza is not smuggling," he said. "The natural situation would be for all Arab and Muslim countries, along with the rest of the free world, to formally allow weapons into the Strip…"

The spokesman went on to say, "Meanwhile, we believe it is our right to bring arms in any way we find fit."

Ubeida claimed that only 48 Hamas gunmen were killed in Israel’s three-week operation in Gaza and that it killed 80 Israeli troops. Ten Israeli soldiers were killed during Operation Cast Lead, according to army reports.

The Associated Press has reported that at least 1,259 Palestinians were killed in the three-week Israeli air and ground mission, more than half of them civilians, according to the United Nations, Gaza health officials and rights groups.

Also Monday, Iranian news outlets reported that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Hamas chief in exile in Damascus, Khaled Meshaal, to congratulate him on his "great victory" against Israel in the Gaza Strip operation.

Meanwhile, in a speech shown Sunday on Hamas television, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh congratulated the Palestinian people on their victory over Israel, saying Israel’s Gaza operation was a failure. He called the Hamas decision to declare its own unilateral cease-fire "wise and responsible."

Haniyeh said Palestinian families whose relatives were killed or injured in the conflict would receive aid.

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