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Netanyahu says Israel’s siege ‘just getting started’ – as it happened

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Hamas official: attack was planned by ‘handful of Hamas commanders’

The Associated Press has interviewed a senior Hamas official who said only a small number of top commanders inside Gaza knew about the wide-ranging incursion launched into Israel, but that allies like Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah “will join the battle if Gaza is subjected to a war of annihilation.”

Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas’ exiled leadership, spoke to The Associated Press in his Beirut office as Israel bombarded Gaza and vowed a total blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.

Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas’ exiled leadership, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, 9 October 2023.
Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas’ exiled leadership, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, 9 October 2023. Photograph: Hussein Malla/AP

Barakeh said the attack was planned by around a half dozen top Hamas commanders in Gaza and that even the group’s closest allies were not informed in advance about the timing. He denied reports that Iranian security officials helped plan the attack or gave the go-ahead at a meeting last week in Beirut.

“Only a handful of Hamas commanders knew about the zero hour,” Barakeh said, adding that no one from the central command or the political bureau of Hamas was in the Lebanese capital last week.

He said even Hamas was shocked by the extent of the operation, dubbed “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm,” saying it had expected Israel to prevent or limit the attack.

“We were surprised by this great collapse,” Barakeh said. “We were planning to make some gains and take prisoners to exchange them. This army was a paper tiger.”

“His claim that Hamas has only planned a small operation is belied by the fact that an estimated 1,000 fighters took part in the incursion, attacking by land, sea and even motorised paragliders,” the Associated Press reports.