Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hamas leader says fighters ready to resist Israel

GAZA (Reuters) - Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said in a televised speech from Damascus on Friday that Hamas was ready to resist any Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip and might abduct more soldiers.

"If you commit a foolish act by raiding Gaza, who knows, we may have a second or a third or a fourth Shalit," Meshaal said. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped more than two years ago.

"We are ready for the challenge, this battle was imposed on us and we are confident we will achive victory because we have made our preparations," he added.

Meshaal urged Arabs to step up aid to Gaza and to send medical teams. He said European and Arab countries had contacted Hamas to discuss ending the fighting, but he did not name them.

Earlier, a Palestinian official who declined to be named said talks had begun between Egypt and Hamas to discuss ideas about restoring calm to the strip.

Meshaal said Hamas would not submit to Israel's ceasefire demands and Israel would first have to stop its attacks, end the blockade of the strip and open all border crossings.

"Our demand is clear, that aggression should end immediately. The siege must be ended and the crossings must all be opened," he said.

Israel's bombing of the coastal enclave entered a seventh day on Friday. At least 426 Palestinians have been killed and 2,000 wounded. Four Israelis have been killed by rockets that have fallen on towns and villages in southern Israel.

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

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