GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The head of Hamas' military wing said in a short broadcast statement on Tuesday that Israel's assassination of his official deputy last week was a "grave mistake."
Ahmad Deif, who has not been seen in public for years and appears without showing his face, said the "retaliation will be equal to the crime."
Israel will eventually realize its killing of Ahmad al-Jaabari on Wednesday was a mistake, he warned. With Deif underground, al-Jaabari was the al-Qassam Brigades effective commander.
Since Wednesday, Israel has launched a large-scale bombardment of the Gaza Strip, killing 124 Palestinians and wounding around 900. Israel has gathered troops on the Gaza borders, raising fears of a land invasion.
"This ground battle is our biggest hope to release captured prisoners,” Deif said, seemingly referencing a threat to seize Israeli soldiers for potential prisoner exchanges.
The commander urged the Palestinian nation to gather all its resources to confront Israel. "It is time to purify al-Aqsa Mosque," he said, referred to the Muslim holy site in Jerusalem's Old City, which Israel annexed in 1967.
"Let the enemy know that they will pay a heavy toll for the hideous crime," he said. Deif said al-Qassam's leadership were holding an "open meeting following up with the battle minute by minute."