"You killed Jabari and you can go on and kill Mashaal and others, but in the end it'll pave our way to Jerusalem… Assassinating our leaders will only make us more powerful," said the man who survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan some 15 years ago.
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Mashaal, who is slated to retire from the leadership of Hamas' political bureau, said that Jabari had recently returned from Mecca to the Gaza Strip through Egypt.
"Ahmed Jabari was not a Hamas man, but a man of the entire nation," he said. "He and Mohammed Deif (the former head of Hamas' military wing, who was seriously injured in an IDF assassination attempt) are heroes. He had an important part in building Hamas' military wing. He lived as hero and died as a hero."
Jabari's funeral, rocket fire and IAF strike
Ahmed Jabari's funeral, Wednesday. Top terrorists hiding (Photo: AP)
IDF strike in Gaza (Photo: AFP)
Kiryat Malachi, after rocket kills three people (Photo: Reuters)
In an aggressive speech, Mashaal stressed that Hamas would pursue the way of jihad and resistance, and called on the Palestinian factions to join forces. He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman were "boasting" that they hit Hamas, but that "Israel and all the dark forces of this world will never success in deterring the Palestinian people."
According to Mashaal, "The Israeli enemy is weak. The rounds against Israel are long, and the war continues."
Sources in the Gaza Strip reported Thursday afternoon that 13 people had been killed and 120 injured since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense.
As for the reports that Israel was interested in destroying the terror organizations' infrastructure, Mashaal said that "the infrastructure of Palestine is its sons, the Palestinian mind and the Palestinian heart and its desires. It can never be defeated by the invaders."
Addressing the changes in the Arab world, Mashaal called on leaders of the Arab and Islamic countries to change their approach and the rules of the game, but praised the new government in Egypt for supporting Gaza's residents.
So far, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has recalled his ambassador from Israel, but did not take a particularly harsh response. On Thursday, he spoke to US President Barack Obama and said that he was "standing by the Palestinian people."
Gazan sources also reported that the IDF had tried to assassinate other top members of Hamas' military wing on Wednesday, including the commander of the organization's Rafah division, Raed al-Atar, who managed to escape and survive the strike. It is unclear whether he was hurt.
Hamas politburo deputy chief Mousa Abu Marzouk said that Atar was not the only target. According to Marzouk, Israel also tried to assassinate Marwan Issa, commander of the military wing's special operations unit.
Fears over additional targeted killings forced Hamas leaders to go underground and avoid attending Jabari's funeral on Thursday. Members of the military wing were not the only ones who went into hiding, but also the political echelon – including Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and senior group member Mahmoud al-Zahar.
Roi Kais contributed to this report
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: firstname.lastname@example.org