Having lost a top member to what it denounces as another targeted killing by Israel, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas vows it will not “sit quietly” in the face of the “new challenge” thrown down by the regime.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was reacting to the assassination of the Gaza-based movement’s senior commander Mazen Fuqaha in a speech broadcast from Qatar on Monday.
“By killing Fuqaha, the enemy told us: ‘I’ve scored a point against you and I can take away one of your heroes even in the heart of Gaza’,” Meshaal said.
“The military and political leadership of Hamas is ready to meet the occupier’s challenge… The Zionist occupier took from us a great hero and for this we will not sit quietly,” he added.
Fuqaha, who used to direct some of the Palestinian resistance movement’s activities in the Israel-occupied West Bank, was shot dead by assailants at the entrance of his home in Gaza City on Friday night with four bullets to the head.
In a statement issued following the murder, Hamas blamed Israel and its “collaborators” for the “despicable crime.”
Meshaal further said by choosing to stage the attack within the Palestinian territory run by Hamas, Tel Aviv had “decided to change the rules of the game.”
“Our will is stronger than their weapons and we will defeat them in the end,” said the Hamas’ leader. “It’s a new blood debt that adds itself to all those before.”
Faqha, 38, had been in Israeli jail since 2003 before he was released nine years later as part of a prisoner swap between Hamas and Tel Aviv.
Israel has assassinated many Hamas figures, including the group’s leaders, officials and activists.
Tel Aviv has launched several wars on the Palestinian sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014. The Israeli military aggression, which ended on August 26 the same year, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians. Over 11,100 others were also wounded in the war.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran could, if necessary, allow Russia to use its military bases on “a case by case basis” for missions against terrorists in Syria.
“Russia doesn’t have a military base (in Iran), we have good cooperation, and on a case by case basis, when it is necessary for Russians fighting terrorism to use Iranian facilities, we will make a decision,” Reuters quoted Zarif as saying in Moscow on Tuesday.
The top Iranian diplomat, who is accompanying President Hassan Rouhani on his two-day visit to Moscow, further said that regional issues, including the crisis in Syria, would be discussed at the upcoming meeting in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Last August, Russia announced that its planes had used a base in western Iran to carry out counter-terrorism air raids in Syria.
“On 16 August , Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and Su-34 frontline bombers, flying with a full bomb load from the Hamedan air base, conducted a group airstrike against targets of” Daesh and Jabhat Fath al-Sham terrorist groups in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Dayr al-Zawr and Idlib, a Russian Defense Ministry statement said back then.
Just days later, Moscow confirmed that all warplanes based in Iran had returned to Russia.
At that time, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said that as long as Iran agreed, Russia could use the air base again “depending on the situation” in Syria.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said at the time that Russian airstrikes on militants in Syria were “temporary, based on a Russian request.”
Last month, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani stressed that Russia continues to use Iran’s airspace as part of a strategic cooperation between the two countries.
Iran and Russia have been assisting the Syrian government in its fight against foreign-backed terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the Arab country since 2011.
Moscow launched its campaign against Daesh and other terror outfits in Syria at the Damascus government’s request in September 2015. Its airstrikes have helped Syrian forces advance against militant groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad’s government.
A high-ranking Russian military figure has leveled strident criticism against the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group over pounding a major dam held by the extremists in Syria’s embattled northern province of Raqqah.
Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff argued on Tuesday that the military contingent was trying to “completely destroy critical infrastructure in Syria and complicate post-war reconstruction as much as possible.”
He added that US-led military aircraft had destroyed four bridges over the Euphrates River in Syria and hit the Tabqa Dam that lies 40 kilometers west of Daesh’s main stronghold of Raqqah.
Rudskoi further warned that the collapse of the dam, most commonly known as the Euphrates Dam, would create an “ecological catastrophe” and lead to “numerous” civilian deaths.
The remakes came as a spokeswoman for the US-backed fighters from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a Kurdish-dominated and anti-Damascus alliance – said on Monday that the Tabqa Dam is not damaged or malfunctioning and engineers fully inspected its operations.
“We permitted a team of engineers to enter the dam to verify the process of its operations. They checked it fully. And there is no malfunction or damage to the dam or its operations as was rumored,” Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, the SPF’s spokeswoman, said in a statement.
She accused Daesh terror group of spreading rumors aimed at causing panic among civilians.
Daesh, in a statement released on Sunday, announced that Tabqa Dam was out of service due to airstrikes being carried out by the US-led coalition, and could collapse.
The statement said pressure on the dam’s compromised structure was building up rapidly as more water flows into the reservoir, bringing it up to its maximum capacity, while the sluice gates normally used to relieve that pressure are jammed shut.