Hamas has threatened to resume suicide attacks in Israel if the Jewish state launches an attack on the Gaza Strip. The Islamist group has also declared a 24-hour unilateral ceasefire with Israel to allow Egyptian aid to pass into the territory.
AFP - Hamas threatened on Monday to resume suicide attacks if Israel launches an offensive on its Gaza stronghold, as the Jewish state kicked off a diplomatic campaign to win support for any military action.
"It is our right as an occupied people to defend ourselves from the occupation by all means possible including suicide attacks," Ayman Taha, a Hamas leader, told AFP.
The warning came as Israel kicked off a campaign to muster international support for any major military offensive to try to halt rocket fire from the impoverished Palestinian territory.
Tensions have mounted since the expiry on Friday of a six-month truce in and around Gaza between Israel and Hamas, which is branded a terrorist group by the Jewish state and the West.
In a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Israel's envoy to the United Nations Gabriela Shalev said the government would respond to continuing rocket fire, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, leader of the main governing Kadima party, has ordered Israeli ambassadors around the world to emphasise that Israel "will not hesitate to react militarily if necessary" to protect its citizens.
She is also due to meet foreign ambassadors to Israel and speak with her counterparts abroad.
"The world must understand that the situation in southern Israel is intolerable for hundreds of thousands of citizens exposed to rocket fire," Palmor said.
"We cannot remain with our arms crossed. Either the international community intervenes or we will have to act," he told AFP.
The public relations effort came a day after Israel threatened a major offensive against the impoverished territory that has been ruled by Hamas since June last year.
The two frontrunners in the race to become prime minister after a snap election in February -- Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads the opposition Likud party currently leading in opinion polls -- both vowed to oust the Islamist movement, sworn to the Jewish state's destruction.
Violence around the enclave has steadily escalated since Friday, when Hamas said it would not renew a six-month truce with Israel, which came into effect after months of Egyptian mediation.
Since then, the army has carried out several air strikes, killing one militant and wounding several Palestinians, and militants have launched several dozen rockets into the Jewish state, wounding a handful of people.
Despite the bellicose rhetoric, observers say the Israeli government is wary of launching a major offensive less than two months before the general election for fear it would not be able to score a decisive victory against Hamas.
"The politicians aren't in any rush to reach election day with an incomplete military operation and only partial results hanging around their necks," wrote military analyst Alex Fishman in top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot on Sunday.
"And worse than that, to be accused of having ordered a military operation just to improve their chances at the ballot box," he said.
Israel responded to violence that erupted around Gaza in early November by tightening its blockade of the territory and blocking deliveries of humanitarian aid and other basic supplies.
The over-crowded and aid-dependent land of some 1.5 million people has been subject to Israeli blockades and repeated raids since 2006, when Hamas won parliamentary elections and later joined in a deadly cross-border raid which saw militants capture an Israeli soldier, who remains hostage to this day.
Date created : 2008-12-22