In response to the death of at least 17 Palestinians during the Israeli army's operation in Gaza on Tuesday, Hamas said in a statement that "the massacre conducted by the IDF is a direct result of the go-ahead and backing given by (US President George W. Bush) to the Zionists' continued attacks in the Strip."
Among those killed in Gaza was Hussam al-Zahar, son of senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar.
According to Hamas, the IDF's operation in Gaza, which concluded in the early afternoon hours, began when undercover Israeli troops moved several hundred yards into the territory to strike an abandoned house east of Gaza City that gunmen used for rocket-launching operations.
When Palestinian militants discovered the troops, an exchange of fire erupted, the militants said. In the ensuing clashes, Israeli tanks fired at least three shells and aircraft struck area on two occasions, Hamas said.
Haniyeh and al-Zahar embracing (Photo: Reuters)
Hamas has declared a three-day mourning period to mark the passing of those killed as a result of the IDF raid.
'Fuel for our continued struggle'
Ismail Haniyeh, the Islamist group's prime minister, said in response to Hussam al-Zahar's death that "the assassination of Palestinian leaders and their children won't wipe out the Palestinian cause or force Hamas to give up on its policy.
Haniyeh made the remarks during a visit to Shifa Hospital, where many of those injured during the IDF raid were being treated.
The spokesperson for Hamas' armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said the casualties his organization sustained during the IDF's operation would not deter it from "continuing to fight the enemy.
"Our dead – including the children of our leaders, such as Dr (Mahmoud) al-Zahar, serve as the fuel for our continued struggle," Abu Obaida said.
"The IDF's operation proves that the enemy only understands the language of blood and force."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas strongly condemned Israel's activity in the Strip, calling it a "massacre of the Palestinians in Gaza at the hands of the IDF."
Associated Press contributed to the report