(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — Hamas leader Khaled Meshal is calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bluff, a move that could backfire on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza straining to survive an onslaught of Israeli rockets.
As the death toll mounted on the Palestinian side Monday and with no signs of a ceasefire, Meshal dared Netanyahu to follow through on a threat to launch a ground invasion in an effort to end Hamas’ own missile attacks on Israel.
Israel has at least 75,000 thousand reservists ready if the Israeli prime minister gives the word. But Meshal boasted to reporters in Gaza City that Netanyahu would have sent troops in by now if he was serious about an invasion that the Hamas head said was Israel’s way to “dictate its own terms and force us into silence.”
Meshal also dismissed attempts to reach a truce with Israel, suggesting that the onus was on his group’s bitter foe to stop “its aggression, assassinations and invasions” so that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip no longer have to live in fear.
Israel began “Operation Pillar of Defense” last Wednesday following non-stop rocket attacks by Hamas that have gone on for months. The latest death toll figures put the number of Palestinian fatalities over 100, many of them civilians. Israel suffered three deaths during the past week and as many as 80 people wounded.
Netanyahu reportedly met with his Cabinet and military leaders Monday night about what Israel’s next move will be.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN