Hamas official says in fluent Hebrew: Let’s stop fighting

JERUSALEM — A senior member of Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement on Sunday made a rare appeal to the Israeli public for a halt to the escalating cross-border fighting, telling an Israeli radio station in fluent Hebrew that Hamas is ready to stop its rocket fire if Israel ends its attacks on Gaza.

JERUSALEM — A senior member of Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement on Sunday made a rare appeal to the Israeli public for a halt to the escalating cross-border fighting, telling an Israeli radio station in fluent Hebrew that Hamas is ready to stop its rocket fire if Israel ends its attacks on Gaza.

As nightfall approached, Gaza militants had fired about 10 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, police said, but Israel had not hit back.

At a late afternoon meeting of Israel’s Security Cabinet, made up of senior ministers, the military was told to “continue to operate against terrorists in order to stop the (rocket) fire on Israel.”

Hamas’ deputy foreign minister, Ghazi Hamad, delivered the message to state-run Israel Radio. “We are interested in calm but want the Israeli military to stop its operations,” Hamad said in Hebrew.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, but Hamad and other leaders of the Islamic militant group learned Hebrew during time spent in Israeli prisons.

Other Hamas officials said they were in touch with mediators in hopes of restoring calm.

Israeli leaders sent mixed messages Sunday.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said if militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza cease their attacks, so would Israel.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a more combative tack. “If the attacks on Israeli citizens and soldiers continue, the response will be far harsher” than it has been, Netanyahu told his Cabinet.

Arab League leader Amr Moussa called on the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza to protect Palestinians. Arab League support for a no-fly zone over Libya was crucial in its imposition there. It was unlikely the world body would take such drastic action against Israel in light of the Hamas rocket attacks.

The violence escalated a week ago when an Israeli airstrike killed three Hamas militants who Israel said were planning a cross-border kidnapping. On Thursday, Hamas militants fired a guided anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, wounding the two people on board, including a teenage boy who was critically hurt.

Since Thursday, Palestinians fired more than 120 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel, prompting Israeli reprisals that have killed 19 Palestinians, including six civilians, and wounded 65 others. It has been the most intense fighting between Israel and Gaza militants since a major Israeli offensive in the Palestinian territory ended in January 2009.

While neither side appears interested in all-out war, the fear is that an isolated incident could easily spark an Israeli offensive because of the combustible situation that has developed over the past month.

Mohammed Awad, Hamas’ foreign minister, told the group’s Al-Quds TV station that there was a “sustained effort” to halt the fighting. “I can say we were in contact with Egypt, Turkey and the United Nations,” he said.

Islamic Jihad, a smaller Palestinian militant group, also called for a halt to the violence.

Israel invaded Gaza in December 2008 in an attempt to stop years of persistent rocket fire at Israeli civilians near the Palestinian territory. Some 1,400 Gazans, including hundreds of civilians, and 13 Israelis were killed in the three-week offensive.

Until the recent flareup, cross-border violence remained at a relatively low level.

However, the balance of power has gradually shifted since the war.

On Thursday, Israel first used a new system designed to intercept incoming rockets. The system, Iron Dome, has now successfully shot down eight projectiles aimed at Israeli cities, the military said, though Israeli officials say it cannot provide a complete defence.

Israel says Hamas, meanwhile, has acquired deadlier weapons since the war. It says the group now has rockets capable of striking deep into Israel, anti-aircraft missiles and sophisticated anti-tank weapons like the laser-guided missile that hit the bus on Thursday.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House sales remain hot in central Alberta with first-quarter sales nearly double last year’s numbers. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta real estate market hot in 2021

Residential sales nearly double 2020 in first quarter

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer gave an update on Olymel's COVID-19 situation on Wednesday. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Veer addresses rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

Red Deer has added nearly 200 cases of active COVID-19 cases in past week

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
RCMP investigate culturally insensitive graffiti at Sylvan Lake school

Sylvan Lake RCMP is investigating a vandalism incident. On April 17 around… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2021 file photo State representatives gather at the Capitol, in Phoenix. Two years after Arizona lawmakers repealed a law barring any instruction on HIV or AIDS that that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle," they are close to enacting a broad remake of the state's sex education laws with a particular focus on LGBTQ issues. (AP Photo/Matt York,File)
Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

People cheer after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Tears and relief sweep intersection where George Floyd died

Tears and relief sweep intersection where George Floyd died

This photo provided by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office shows Ruben Flores, 80, who was arrested in connection to the murder of college student Kristin Smart at his Arroyo Grande home on Tuesday, April 12, 2021. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said the arrest warrants for Ruben Flores and his son Paul Flores were issued after a search of the elder Flores' home last month using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs. He said evidence was found linked to the killing of Smart but they had not yet located her body. (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Document: Kristin Smart once buried in suspect’s backyard

Document: Kristin Smart once buried in suspect’s backyard

In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listen to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill read instructions to the jury before closing arguments, Monday, April 19, 2021, in the trial of Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)
Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death

Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death

This undated image provided by Matthew Pottage shows drought-tolerant succulents in a window box in London. (Matthew Pottage via AP)
Going beyond the traditional window-box garden

Going beyond the traditional window-box garden

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. Female service members and veterans are blasting the way Canada's military police investigate allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the ranks.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Female service members blast military police over sexual misconduct investigations

Female service members blast military police over sexual misconduct investigations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is joined virtually by Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland as they talk online to a group of front-line pharmacists from across the country to discuss the ongoing vaccination efforts in the fight against COVID‑19, from the Prime Ministers office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Freeland says Liberals open to provincial child care demands, draws line around fees

Freeland says Liberals open to provincial child care demands, draws line around fees

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Trudeau, Freeland seeking AstraZeneca shots as they become age-eligible with others

Trudeau, Freeland seeking AstraZeneca shots as they become age-eligible with others

Most Read