GAZA, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- The honorary chief of Hamas' armed wing on Tuesday warned Israel against carrying out a ground incursion in the Gaza Strip.
The commander, Mohammed Dief, said that an Israeli ground operation "will be the biggest hope to release the prisoners" by swapping them for Israeli soldiers who would be captured.
His remarks came on the seventh day of an Israeli aerial offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip amid reports of a possible ground incursion if regional efforts to broker a ceasefire fail.
Dief was the leader of Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades until he was badly injured in an Israeli airstrike that targeted him in 2003. Since then, he became more of an honorary leader while the virtual successor was Ahmed al-Jaabari.
On Wednesday, Israel started its Operation Pillar of Defense by killing al-Jaabari.
Meanwhile, Dief, speaking in a short televised audio message, urged Hamas fighters for "steadfastness," promising them of " victory."
The Israeli operations in Gaza have killed 114 Palestinians so far. For the first time ever, Hamas used long-range rockets in its response to the Israeli attacks, sending them to the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.