The Hamas terrorist organization proudly claimed responsibility for a mortar attack on western Negev communities Wednesday morning, a day after the United Nations officially released a report criticizing Operation Cast Lead.
The attack also came one day after The New York Times published an interview with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, who claimed that the group had ceased its rocket attacks on Israel after the military operation ended.
Five mortar shells exploded near the security barrier adjacent to the Sha’ar HaNegev region. The Gaza Belt community of Sderot, which has been a frequent target of terror rocket attacks, is located in the area.
No one was injured and no damage was reported in the attack. Israel did not immediately respond.
It was the second mortar attack in less than a week, as Arab terrorists in the region slowly begin to resume their routine of launching Kassam rockets and mortar shells at southern Israeli civilians – a practice that had become a daily affair until several weeks after the December 2008 Operation Cast Lead campaign ended.
Last Saturday, Gaza terrorists fired mortar shells at the same Sha’ar HaNegev region. There were no reports of injuries or damage resulting from the weekend attack, which was followed by the IDF's aerial bombing of smuggling tunnels near the Gaza-Egypt border. Two Palestinian Authority Arab smugglers inside one tunnel were killed when it collapsed.
Hamas Propaganda: 'No More Rockets'
In an interview calculated to catch the eye of the Obama administration, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal told The New York Times that the group intends to the "part of the solution" in reaching peace in the Middle East.
The report, published Tuesday, quoted the Damascus-based terrorist leader as saying "I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution, period."
Mashaal told the paper that Hamas has stop firing rockets at southern Israel since the IDF ended its counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, just hours before U.S. President Barack Obama was sworn into office.
The interview, which was conducted at Mashaal's home in Damascus over a five-hour period divided up over two days, made clear that Hamas has not relented on its intent to annihilate the Jewish State, however. "There is only one enemy in the region, and that is Israel," he told the reporter, adding that the terrorist group would not modify or revoke its charter calling for Israel's destruction.
On Wednesday, Mashaal firmly denied The New York Times report. Speaking in Arabic, he declared that the shelling of Israeli communities was the answer to claims made in the article. According to a report broadcast on Voice of Israel government radio, Mashaal also said the terror group had previously stopped shooting simply because it was "not in the interest" of the Arabs.
Mortars Follow UN ‘Verbal Attack’
The attack Wednesday morning also came less than a day after the United Nations released a report accusing the IDF of deliberately targeting U.N. buildings during its counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
The Foreign Ministry expressed outrage in response to the report, which it said was “unbalanced, biased and ignores the facts.”
The allegations centered on an incident in which the IDF fired at terrorists who were attacking from a position next to a compound owned by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The IDF was accused of firing directly at the building, which was marked on operational maps as belonging to the U.N., and wounding civilians, a charge that Israel vehemently denies.