Hamas: Israel 'strengthening our will'

Hamas and Islamic Jihad defiant after Israel says it located bodies of five terrorists killed in terrorist tunnel explosion.

Elad Benari ,

Hamas terror tunnel
Hamas terror tunnel
Flash 90

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups were defiant on Sunday after the IDF announced it had located and retrieved the bodies of five of the 12 terrorists who were killed when a terrorist tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel was demolished in a controlled explosion last week.

The Islamic Jihad claimed that Israel's announcement was a form of blackmail, and stressed it would take no part in any exchange deal.

"We will not accept the occupation blackmailing us and using the issue to obtain information about the Israeli prisoners," a spokesman for the group said, according to AFP.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that in taking the bodies Israel was strengthening the group's will to fight.

“Withholding the bodies of the Islamic Jihad martyrs is a hopeless attempt to impose a new challenge on the resistance,” he said in the statement, quoted on Hamas's website.

“This desperate act proves that the Israeli occupation has failed to undermine the steadfastness of resistance. We assure that this attempt will increase our determination to adhere to the choice of resistance and to develop and strengthen its arms to continue in defending our people,” continued Barhoum.

“We affirm that the resistance who succeeded in freeing the Palestinian heroes from the Israeli prisons in the prisoners exchange deal of 2011 will not fail to restore the bodies of these martyrs,” he vowed, referring to the Shalit deal in which Hamas freed captive soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 terrorist prisoners.

The Islamic Jihad had earlier threatened Israel, saying that its “response” to Israel over its destruction of the terror tunnel was ready.

“People are used to familiar responses, like rocket-launching, but we have other options at our disposal,” said an official with the terrorist group.

The tunnel destroyed last week was part of a network which extended from the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza into Israeli territory. It was destroyed as part of the IDF’s efforts to prevent terrorists from maintaining underground routes the Gaza security fence.

Despite demands by Hamas and Islamic Jihad that they be permitted to enter the tunnel to retrieve the bodies of their fellow terrorists, Israel refused, saying it would not permit any entry into the tunnel system, which extended into Israeli territory.

Petitioners from leftist organizations turned to the Supreme Court, calling on the court to force the government to permit Hamas to retrieve the bodies of the dead terrorists.

Hamas has held the bodies of two slain IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, in captivity since 2014, demanding the release of large numbers of jailed Arab terrorists as a goodwill gesture before negotiations for the soldiers’ release even begin. Three Israeli citizens are also believed to be held by Hamas.