Hamas declares victory over Israel in Gaza, claims it lost only 48 fighters

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Jerusalem, Jan.19 (ANI): The militant outfit Hamas on Monday declared victory over Israel, claiming that it had lost just 48 fighters during the 22-day conflict in the Gaza Strip. "We announce to our people the martyrdom of 48 Qassam fighters," The Telegraph quoted Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, as saying.

Obeida, whose face was wrapped in an Arab Keffiyah scarf, also warned that weapons smuggling into Gaza would not stop, as this was the declared aim of the war against Israel.

Israeli officials have estimated that up to 500 Hamas members were killed during Operation Cast Lead.

A tenuous ceasefire has held since Israeli troops withdrew from key areas of the densely populated strip.

A total of 40,000 tonnes of food and medicines had been transported into Gaza since the offensive began.

Palestinians have used the cease-fire to retrieve bodies and possessions from the rubble.

Nearly 100 bodies were recovered on Sunday as the truce came into effect. The discoveries brought the overall death toll of Operation Cast Lead to more than 1,300, including more than 400 children, medics said. Another 5,300 were wounded. Israel reported a death toll of 13.

Meanwhile, seventeen Arab heads of state are attending a two-day summit in Kuwait, while another five countries are represented at senior official level.

The summit is set to approve a two-billion-dollar fund for the rebuilding of Gaza which was badly battered by the Israeli offensive. (ANI)

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