Hamas warns Israel against ground operation

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iol pic wld hamas-israel strikes34 REUTERS File image - A soldier has been stoned to death in Pakistan over allegations of having an affair with an 18-year-old girl.

Israel will “pay a heavy price” if it launches a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Hamas's top military commander warned in a rare audio message broadcast on Tuesday.

“The enemy will pay a heavy price if it thinks of entering Gaza,” Mohammed Deif said in the audio message carried by Hamas television station Al-Aqsa.

“A ground war is the best hope of freeing the prisoners,” Deif said, implying that militants would seek to capture Israeli soldiers in order to bring about a prisoner swap deal as they did last year with Israel's Gilad Shalit.

Deif is the head of Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a position he assumed in 2002, after the previous commander Saleh Shehadeh was killed in a massive Israeli air strike.

In 2006, Deif was badly wounded in another Israeli air strike.

He subsequently went underground, leaving most field duties to Ahmed Jaabari, his second-in-command, who was killed in an Israeli targeted killing on November 14 which sparked the current cycle of violence. - AFP

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