Israel warns it will disrupt Hamas attempts to rearm


Israel’s top general has warned that the army will continue to disrupt any attempt by Hamas to rearm.

The comments by Israeli defence forces chief of staff Lieut Gen Benny Gantz followed reports in the British Sunday Times that Israeli spy satellites had detected a cargo ship, docked at an Iranian port, being loaded with missiles, presumably bound for the Gaza Strip.

Lieut Gen Gantz said the issue of Hamas’s attempt to bolster its strength was important and far from new.

Deputy Hamas politburo chief Mousa Abu Marzook said Hamas would not stop making weapons in Gaza or smuggling them into the territory. “These weapons protected us and there is no way to stop obtaining and manufacturing them,” he said.

Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar said Iran intended to increase its military and economic aid to militant groups in the wake of Israel’s military campaign. “They give it to us in the name of Allah, without conditions, and I am a witness to this,” he told reporters in Gaza, adding: “It is our right to take money and weapons from Iran.”

Both sides continue to observe the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which went into effect last Wednesday night, ending eight days of violence that left 156 Palestinians and six Israelis dead.

The Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, is due to meet senior Egyptian security officials today to discuss the opening of border crossings to ease access for people and goods. They will also discuss Hamas demands to ease the economic blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel.

Israel eases restrictions

Over the weekend Israel began easing restrictions on Palestinians as part of the terms of the truce. Gazan farmers were allowed to work on land adjacent to the border security fence and fishermen were permitted to head further out to sea.

Along some areas of the border, Hamas police kept residents away from the fence, following clashes with Israeli troops on Friday in which a resident was killed and 19 wounded. An Israeli defence official said the army was no longer enforcing a buffer zone, but reserved the right to act against suspicious people.

A leading Islamic cleric in Gaza ruled that it was a sin to violate the ceasefire. The fatwa edict, issued by Suleiman al-Daya, accords a religious legitimacy to the truce and could justify any act by Gaza’s government to enforce it.