Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said on Saturday that Palestinian factions in Gaza had used only “half their strength” during the last round of hostilities with Israel in May, promising another escalation would “change the face of the Middle East”.
Speaking to academics and members of the public in Gaza, Sinwar said the recent fighting with Israel was only “to test our strength.”
The Islamist leader also mentioned for the first time the death toll among militant factions in Gaza during the campaign. “Ninety fighters were killed the most in the last escalation, but Israel has targeted more than 10,000 fighters. Israel plans to kill half the resistance and has failed for a long time.”
Sinwar highlighted the link between the fighting in Gaza and the violence that erupted in East Jerusalem earlier in May. “We have proved to Israel that someone is defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is a strategic goal for the Palestinians.” He added that the riots that started in the Jewish-Arab cities in Israel, as well as in the West Bank, “represent a more significant lever than the missiles. [fired at Israel by Hamas]. ”
Sinwar’s remarks come after Israeli right-wing organizations said they planned to hold Flag March next week through the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem – a point of tension at the start of the Gaza outbreak – and cross the Arab Quarter on the way to the Western Wall. where after the march mass prayers will be held.
Amid the planned march, Hamas called on Palestinians in Jerusalem on Saturday to arrive en masse at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday to protect it from [Israel’s] plans. ”
In an advertisement for the march, the organizations wrote: “We must unite Jerusalem to establish victory! We are returning to parade through the streets of Jerusalem with their heads held high with Israeli flags.”
Moreover, Sinwar criticized the Arab countries, which have normalized relations with Israel, claiming that they were responsible for the outbreak. “The normalization of relations between some Arab countries and Israel and the internal Palestinian division have encouraged Israel to start this aggression.”
Israeli airstrikes in response to heavy rocket fire on central and southern Israel have caused severe damage in Gaza. Addressing the issue, Sinuar said, “We will open the door to all those who support the restoration of the strip and will not use funds earmarked for military reconstruction.”
Sources in Hamas said on Friday that the organization had told Israel that if it did not allow the transfer of Qatari funds to Gaza by next week, it would resume protests on the Gaza border – an act that could lead to further escalation, just weeks after Israel and Hamas announced a ceasefire.
Qatar has promised $ 360 million to be paid during the year to the Gaza Strip in January. The money will be used to pay Hamas salaries, provide financial assistance to families in need and operate the strip’s power plants.
Since the beginning of the last escalation of Israel and Gaza, Qatari money has not been allowed to flow into Gaza. According to a report in the Lebanese newspaper Al Ahbar, Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Amadi explained to Hamas that Israel is preventing the transfer of funds.
On Monday, Sinwar said Hamas was ready to immediately join talks on the return of Israeli civilians and the corpses of soldiers detained in Gaza.
Sinwar said there has been recent progress on the issue, but it has stalled due to political instability in Israel. “In the coming days, we will see a discussion in Cairo” in an attempt to reach an agreement, he said. He also advised people to “[r]remember the number 1,111. You will find out later what this means. ”
The bodies of two Israeli soldiers are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, as well as by two Israeli civilians, Hisham al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu.