Nizar Riyan, a Hamas leader in Gaza, says his organization is determined to have Israel wiped off the map and be replaced by a state of Palestine.
Speaking with the Hamas television station, Riyan called upon the PA Arab factions in Gaza to keep fighting the Jews "even if the Arabs and Abu Mazen do not agree, until the last Jew leaves Palestine."
Further dispelling any illusions that only Judea and Samaria are contested lands, Riyan called for the bombardment of Ashkelon "until its Jews run away just like those of Sderot... The Arabs were expelled from Sderot and Ashkelon, and now the time has come to expel the land-stealers and allow the Arabs to return."
Preparing in Ashkelon
Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mahtzri is to meet with the Director of the Prime Minister's Bureau Monday in light of the threats facing the city. Mahtzri has already had meetings with top government and military figures on the question of how to protect Ashkelon from a feared onslaught of Kassam rockets.
The city of Sderot, besieged for over five years by Kassam rockets, has many non-reinforced homes and schools; Ashkelon's population, close to 110,000, is more than five times that of Sderot.
In late October 2005, Gen. Dan Harel, completing his term as head of the IDF Southern Command, warned that Ashkelon was already in range of Kassam rockets and that the city would eventually be targeted. Within a few weeks, rockets began hitting the southern outskirts of the city almost weekly, often landing near the Rotenberg Power Plant. The station is Israel's second-largest electric station, supplying about a quarter of Israel’s electricity.
Meanwhile, Cabinet ministers are threatening Hamas leaders with personal liquidation. Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), a former Defense Minister, said Monday that terrorist officres and even Hamas government ministers must be targeted directly, in addition to those who plan and execute Kassam attacks.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said Monday that even Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and exiled leader Khaled Mashaal are legitimate targets.
Dichter further said that fears for the fate of captured soldier Gilad Shalit should not govern Israel's war against terrorism, nor are they well-grounded. "The return of Gilad Shalit safe and sound is a very important mission," Dichter told Army Radio. "This is a goal that must be sought as if there was no war against terrorism, while at the same time we must fight against terrorism as if there was no Gilad Shalit issue. Once you start fighting terrorism with the fear of what might happen to Shalit, you endanger not only more soldiers, but also more citizens... Shalit is a great asset for Hamas, and they know that he is a very important negotiating card; they don't care about his life, but they care about his value, and will make sure to preserve it."
Shalit was captured 11 months ago while guarding the Gaza border. He is being held somewhere in Gaza. Two other soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were kidnapped on the Lebanon border 18 days later, kicking off the Second Lebanon War. It is not known if the latter two are alive, and, unlike with Shalit, negotiations have not been underway for their exchange.