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collapsed house in Beit Lahiya , northern Gaza Strip
Photo: AFP
Hamas: Explosion in Beit Lahiya preparation for ‘quality’ attack
Hamas confirms operatives killed in northern Strip’s Thursday explosion preparing ‘special mission’; Mofaz urges cabinet to change view on Gaza op
Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades confirmed Friday that the operatives who died in Thursday's explosion in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya were making last-minute preparations for a “special mission”, a Hamas codename for a “high-quality” attack.

 

According to the statement, the dead were operatives of a special Hamas unit. The organization promised that its people will “continue following in the path of those killed.”

 

A Hamas gunman who was wounded in Thursday's died Friday morning. Hamas’ announcement does not refer to the blast's circumstances even though the group's media has begun using the term “explosion” and not just “attack,” the term repeatedly used on Thursday.

 

Hamas was quick to blame Israel and reacted with a heavy rocket fire on the western Negev. Recent statements, however, have omitted placing the blame on Israel.

 

On Thursday, Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida said that as a result of the IDF denying it's involvement, the military wing will conduct an investigation into the blast and make its results public immediately.

 

Hamas’ announcement confirmed Ynet reports saying that Ahmed Randur, commander of the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades in north Gaza was present at the time of the explosion and lightly injured as a result.

 

Additional senior Hamas officials were present at the scene including Beit Lahiya Hamas Area Commander Ahmed Hamouda, whose house is the one which exploded. His daughter was killed in the blast. Hassan Abu Shakfa and Ashraf Mushtaha, both senior officials in Hamas’ military wing were killed as well.

 

A neighbor who lives adjacent to the exploded house said that the presence of Hamas’ senior officials at the scene of the incident and at the hospital immediately after it occurred, proves that those present at the blast were very high-ranking. “The fast arrival of the civilian leadership and of the firefighters proves that extreme pressure was felt due to the identity of those injured.”

 

Meanwhile, at a visit at the military prep school at Kibbutz Shoval in the Negev on Friday, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) criticized the political security cabinet’s decision to hold negotiations with the Palestinians.

 

According to Mofaz, “the cabinet’s decision is problematic and unfavorable for Israel. We needed to change our policies regarding the Gaza Strip a year ago when the Hamas rose to power. Today, we are a year late and we still have not reached the right decision.”

 

Yonat Atlas also contributed to this report

 

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