Hamas’s former prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, declared on Thursday evening that, despite the elimination of several of its leaders, the terror group will remain strong.
"We want to emphasize that despite the pain of their deaths, Hamas's history has demonstrated more than once that it is stronger after each elimination of a senior member,” he said in a televised address from his hiding place, according to Channel 2 News.
"Once a senior member is killed, we continue on our way without hesitation," said Haniyeh, who added that the battle between Hamas and “the Zionist enemy” is a difficult one.
"(The enemy) has paid a high price extracted by the fighters of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, both outside of Gaza and inside it,” he claimed. “Our brave people and our leaders are out to lift the siege on Gaza and liberate Jerusalem and Palestine from the neo-Nazi occupier that only destroys homes and kills women and children."
In a veiled reference to Egypt which has been mediating the ceasefire efforts between Israel and Hamas, Haniyeh said that "based on what happened in the past, we suggest to those who initiate the ceasefires to first talk with the enemy and ask it to adhere to the agreements and not drag its feet. The enemy continues to kill our children and carry out massacres.”
The comments come hours after three senior Hamas commanders were killed in a pre-dawn Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Hamas identified the leaders as Mohammed Abu Shamalah, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhum. Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said eight people were killed in the strike.
Witnesses said a four-storey family home was completely destroyed in a series of air strikes.
The airstrike was carried out based on intelligence provided by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which led to the identification of two central Hamas figures.
Earlier this week, an Israeli airstrike targeted the home of Mohammed Deif, the head of Hamas’s “military wing”.