Hamas Gaza chief says only five percent of tunnels damaged in bombardments, says Israel assassinating him would be 'greatest gift'
"What has happened is but a drill for what will come if Israel violates the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The occupiers must be aware that Al-Aqsa has its men who will defend it," Yahya Sinwar told journalists in Gaza on Wednesday, referring to Israeli raids of the Muslim holy site in Jerusalem.
He said he does not fear Israel assassinating him and doing so would be an "houour".
"The greatest gift Israel can give me is to assassinate me," Sinwar said. "I prefer to die a martyr from an F-16 than to die of coronavirus or some other disease."
Sinwar added that Israel only managed to cause only minimal damage to Hamas' military arsenal, claiming that only five percent of the group's tunnels were damaged in the 11-day offensive.
He said that Israel also failed to kill Hamas fighters by spreading "misleading statements" when an Israeli military account signalled that a ground offensive was in the making.
"Israel failed to direct a strike to kill the political, military, and security leadership [of Palestinian resistance groups] and destroy their command and control rooms," he told journalists in Gaza.
Top Hamas leader Yehiyeh Sinwar appeared at a military parade to mark the end of a days-long Israeli bombardment of the besieged Strip that killed hundreds of civilians, including children.— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) May 23, 2021
On the first day of Israel's offensive on Gaza, the Israeli army tweeted that it had launched a ground offensive on the besieged enclave.
"IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip," the tweet read. No ground offensive was subsequently launched by Israel.
Israel began its deadly assault on Gaza on 10 May, after Hamas launched rockets in response to an attack by Israeli security forces on Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which left hundreds injured.
Israeli security forces wounded dozens of Palestinians who protested the potential expulsion of residents from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah area to make way for Israeli settlers.
Between 10 to 21 May, Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children and some fighters, authorities in Gaza say.
Rocket and mortar fire from Gaza killed 12 people in Israel.