SIDON, Lebanon: At the Khaled Ibn al-Walid Mosque in the southern Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp Friday, Hamas was accepting congratulations rather than condolences on the occasion of the deaths of three of its commanders.
Pictures of the Hamas leaders and other fallen heroes adorned the walls, while chants glorifying the assassinated leaders echoed throughout the mosque.
As the month-old Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued Thursday, Israel managed to assassinate three of Hamas’ top commanders by bombing a four-story building in Rafah.
But although the attack has been painted as large blow to the movement’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, not everyone sees it that way.
“I don’t consider the assassination of the three leaders as a setback,” said Ahmad Abdul Hadi, a Hamas official. “When we want to achieve something great for the Palestinian cause, sacrifice is inevitable.”
Abdul Hadi told The Daily Star that the Palestinian resistance in Gaza had been winning the war ever since fighting began in early July, adding that the Israelis had nothing left but targeting innocents and destroying houses.
“ Hamas isn’t new to sacrifices, it had martyrs in the past such as Sheikh Ahmad Yassine, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi,” he said. “As Palestinians, our wounds mend quickly.”
During the movement’s Friday meeting in the mosque, tens of speakers belonging to Lebanese and Palestinian organizations praised the Palestinians for their resistance and persistence in the face of Israel.
The Hamas official also had something to say about the negotiation process, which has dragged on for weeks and collapsed earlier this week amid a fresh outburst of rockets and air raids.
“The Palestinian negotiators in Cairo were aware that they were in a manipulative environment,” Abdul Hadi said. “They knew that the negotiations had a lot to do with the struggle between the different parties in the region and with the assistance provided to Israel.”
He said the delegation had dealt with the situation very smoothly to make sure that the demands were achieved, but all the deception and bluffing had prevented things from working out.
“The cease-fire gives us an advantage in the field and on the humanitarian level,” Abdul Hadi said.
According to him, Israel wanted to end the war, but it and its allies wanted to make sure that two things wouldn’t be achieved: “They wanted to make sure that the Palestinian resistance wouldn’t win.”
But the Palestinian delegation held its ground, and refused to make any compromises unless their demands were met.
“In a deceptive move, the enemy was monitoring the resistance and the fighters through spying devices and with the help of nearby and far-away countries,” Abdul Hadi said.
“After we discovered that, we cut off the negotiations.”
Many Palestinians are now eagerly awaiting Hamas’ next step, but the expectations are of violence rather than further attempts at dialogue.
For example, there was an enthusiastic reaction among Palestinians when arrested Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, currently held in an Israeli prison cell, called on his followers to prepare themselves to fight Israel in the West Bank.
All eyes are particularly on Abu Obeida, the spokesman of Hamas’ armed wing in Gaza, who is expected to make an announcement that the Palestinian resistance has succeeded in detaining or killing Israeli fighters in retaliation for the assassinations.
Abu Obeida, around 40 years old, is well liked among Palestinians, especially members and supporters of Hamas and other Islamist groups.
He hides his face behind the Palestinian keffiyeh, and never appears publically except to announce a strong position or an operation against Israel.
Outside the Khaled Ibn al-Walid Mosque, Palestinian youngsters in black T-shirts held plastic guns while they competed with each other over the best impression of Abu Obeida announcing an operation that has killed Israelis.
“To the red keffiyeh wearer [Abu Obeida], I am waiting for you to announce the death of an Israeli Chief of Staff,” Mohammad al-Hasan said. “We want to hear about Israeli captives ... we want bombings.”
“I love Abu Obeida because his voice is [strong],” Haroun Mohammad Ahmad said. “Make us happy, we are waiting for you.”