Hamas leader declares 'victory in battle for Jerusalem'
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. (File photo: AFP/Said Khatib)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh Tuesday declared that the Palestinians have "set a new balance of power" vis-á-vis Israel following massive terrorist rocket fire on southern and central Israel.

Gaza terrorists fired over 1,000 rockets on Israel since Monday, killing four people and leaving dozens injured. The IDF has mounted hundreds of airstrikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Strip, giving the campaign the codename Operation Guardian of the Walls.

"We have achieved victory in the battle for Jerusalem, the defense of Jerusalem," Haniyeh said, observing that "Jerusalem is the axis of conflict."

He said that Hamas has been in contact with leaders in the region since events began to escalate in recent weeks, fueled by riot in Jerusalem, especially in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the Damascus Gate.

International mediators, including Egypt and Qatar, have trying to broker a ceasefire in the conflict — the most intense since the 2014 Gaza war. But Haniyeh dismissed the efforts, saying that "Israel was responsible for starting the conflict and must bear its consequences.

"Hamas is ready for every scenario, whether escalation or ceasefire," Haniyeh said. "Hamas will not abandon Jerusalem, nor will we abandon the resistance."

Haniyeh attributed the "victory" to Monday's rocket fire success in preventing an annual Jerusalem Day march staged by right-wing groups annually from going through east Jerusalem.

"What is taking place right now is an honor for our people, our nation," Haniyeh said. "There is a new balance of power right now."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned that Israel will not relent on the military campaign in Gaza until calm is restored to its cities and southern border.

"Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist groups have paid, and will pay a heavy price" for their attacks on Israel, the prime minister said.

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