Hamas says Gaza sanctions "declaration of war"

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GAZA, Sep 19 (Reuters) Palestinian Islamist group Hamas today said that Israel had effectively declared war by labelling the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip an ''enemy entity''.

''It is a declaration of war and continues the criminal, terrorist Zionist actions against our people,'' said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas in the coastal enclave.

Israel's security cabinet declaration today that Gaza was an ''enemy entity'' opened the way for cuts in fuel and other supplies to the territory, an Israeli political source said.

''They aim to starve our people and force them to accept humiliating formulas that could emerge from the so-called November peace conference,'' Barhoum said, referring to a US-sponsored meeting expected to be held in two months.

Militants in Gaza regularly fire rockets into Israel and Israeli forces have raided the enclave, from which the Jewish state evacuated troops and settlers two years ago.

Hamas forces, which seized control of Gaza in June after fighting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah faction, have been bracing for a broader Israeli offensive, particularly since a rocket struck an Israeli army base last week, wounding some three dozen soldiers.

''If Israel resorts to military action against Gaza we will be ready to confront them. We will not surrender and we will fight together with all our people,'' Barhoum said.

Reuters SG GC1636

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