Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has warned that a new military operation on the coastal strip "will be no picnic" for Israel and vowed the territory could stand up to any aggression.
Recently returned from his first tour of the region since 2007, Haniyeh told reporters on Thursday that the positions of Arab countries towards Gaza and Israel have changed.
Haniyeh visited Egypt, Sudan, Turkey and Tunisia — where he stressed that the Arab Spring had changed the strategic conditions in the region and would harm Israel’s occupation.
The trip aimed to bolster support for Gaza, under a crippling Israeli blockade that was tightened in 2007 when Hamas seized power.
During his tour, Israeli fire on the coastal strip killed two Palestinians and injured dozens, including a 13-year-old boy. As Gaza marked the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s army chief called the three-week war an "excellent" operation and said any repeat attack must be "swift and painful."
Israeli plans for military action in Gaza "do not stop and this continuous talk indicates Israel’s bad intentions towards the people of Gaza," Haniyeh told reporters.
Describing Gaza as "not far" from another Israeli military action, he vowed: "Gaza will not break, as the people are steadfast and able to face any aggression from Israel."
A reconciliation deal between his party and Fatah has shaken off a "cold spell," he said, after party leaders met in November.
The mission is now to implement the May 2011 deal on the ground, he added. Haniyeh will host Hamas and Fatah leaders at his home in Gaza City on Saturday for reconciliation talks, his foreign minister announced on Thursday.