Hamas said on Saturday it would escalate its attacks against Israel to include a wider range of targets if Israel failed to halt its aerial assaults on the Gaza Strip.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri blamed Israel for an escalation in violence. “If the Israeli escalation continues, amid international silence and complicity, the reactions by resistance factions will broaden,” he said, such actions would be necessary to protect the Palestinians in Gaza.
Violence has flared since Hamas claimed responsibility for firing a rocket at an Israeli school bus on Thursday, critically injuring a teenager. Hamas has said it was responding to previous lethal Israeli assaults on its members.
Hamas said on Saturday its fighters did not intend to target Israeli schoolchildren when they fired a rocket at a bus two days ago.
“It was not known that the bus targeted on the outskirts of Gaza, carried schoolchildren,” spokes-man Sami Abu Zuhri said, adding that the road where the bus was travelling was often used by Israeli military vehicles.
Jewish settlers went on the rampage in two Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank on Saturday, witnesses said. In Assira Al Qabatieh, the settlers hurled stones at houses until Israeli troops arrived, the witnesses said.
The soldiers allowed the settlers to leave without making any move to arrest them, the witnesses added. In nearby Urif, settlers torched a Palestinian-owned car.
Israel has maintained that the bus, because it was yellow, should have been easy to identify by whoever fired the anti-tank rocket. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Hamas, which rules the Gaza. Israel killed four Palestinians and wounded half a dozen others as it pursued air raids in Gaza for a third day on Saturday, responding to increased rocket fire out of the territory, local medics said.
Israeli forces killed a local Hamas commander in the southern Gaza town of Rafah bordering Egypt, as well as two of his bodyguards, in a targeted strike on a vehicle, medics said. Israel blamed the slain commander for a rocket strike on its port of Eilat launched from Egyptian Sinai some months ago.
Five militants were wounded in a second air raid in northern Gaza. Another air strike at daybreak killed another militant. The Hamas has put all security forces on a 24-hour state of alert after two days of deadly clashes with Israel, a spokesman said.
“The interior ministry has decreed a state of alert. All security forces must work 24 hours in 24, even civil defence and medical services, to protect and save the people targeted by the Zionist occupiers,” ministry spokesman Ihab Al Ghussein said.
An Israeli tank round killed a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip early on Saturday, bringing to 12 the overall toll from the deadliest 24 hours of violence since a devastating war more than two years ago. Agencies