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Hamas to fight on despite Gaza ‘holocaust’: Meshaal

26 Palestinians, including three Hamas leaders, killed so far today
Hamas's political leader Khaled Meshaal vows to fight on despite losses (AFP)

Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal vowed to continue hitting Israel until Palestinian conditions for a permanent ceasefire, especially the lifting of a seven-year-long blockade of the Strip, were met.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency on Thursday, Meshaal accused Israel of perpetrating a "holocaust" in the embattled Gaza Strip.

"We are determined to realise the demands of the Palestinian people, especially lifting the siege and securing the release of [Palestinian] detainees," Meshaal said.

"What Israel has done in the Gaza Strip over the last 45 days is a genuine holocaust. They are killing children, destroying residential areas, mosques, hospitals and UNRWA-run schools."

His comments came shortly before Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon requested cabinet permission to call up 10,000 reservists for combat and home front duty. This comes on top of the 2,000 reservists called up yesterday in the latest sign that the conflict may be far from winding down.

According to Al Jazeera, since midnight last night, 26 Palestinians have been killed with heavy bombing reportedly continuing throughout the day. Two further bodies were also pulled from the rubble, pushing the latest death toll to above 2,060.

Three Hamas leaders, Mohamed Abu Shamala, Raed al-Attar and Mohamed Barhoum – were killed in a strike on Rafah City in southern Gaza. Five other Palestinians were also reportedly killed, including three children, all belonging to the al-Rifi family, while Palestinian Maan news agency said at least 40 others were injured.

"Israel is replicating what [Nazi leader Adolf] Hitler did years ago," Meshaal said.

Subsequent airstrikes also struck a funeral procession in Gaza City, and a car in the Nasr neighbourhood west of Gaza City. Four Palestinians were killed in the first strike, and two more in the second.

Separate strikes across Gaza killed 11 other Palestinians, including three more children, Palestinian sources said.

Two bodies - one belonging to the three-year-old daughter of Hamas’s military leader Mohammed Deif – were also pulled from the rubble.

Deif’s wife and infant son were killed when an Israeli missile hit the building where they were staying on Tuesday night. It remains unknown whether Deif survived the attack, although Palestinian sources insist that he is alive and remains in command of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Ceasefire collapses

The latest round of fighting between Hamas and Israel began on Tuesday after Cairo-based talks collapsed.

Since then Israel has pounded Gaza from the air, while Hamas has sent a barrage of rockets toward Israel that have caused some damaged and “moderately” injured an Israeli civilian.

“Operation Protective Edge will continue until its goals is met – the return of quiet for an extended period to the citizens of south Israel, along with a significant blow to the terrorist infrastructure," he said in a statement while also praising Israel’s intelligence services for their “hard work and professionalism” .

While Israel accused Palestinian resistance factions of violating the ceasefire with a rocket barrage, Hamas accused Tel Aviv of attempting to derail the talks in Cairo by not giving in to any of the Palestinian demands.

"We will not give up until Palestinian demands - at the top of which is lifting the Gaza siege - are fulfilled," Meshaal told AA.

"Our message to the world is that it's high time to deal with the root cause of the problem by ending the [Israeli] occupation and settlement building and enabling the Palestinian people to live in peace on their own land," he added.

Since the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge on 7 July more than 2,060 Palestinians - a quarter of whom were children - had been killed while more than 10,000 have been injured and some 400,000 have been displaced.

The UN on Thursday admitted that it had grossly underestimated the extent of the destruction, and that its earlier calculations predicted that 50,000 people would be displaced – an escalation that has left it struggling to cope.