A senior member of Hamas has said the Palestinian militant group was surprised by America’s reaction to recent violence in Gaza, suggesting the US could enter the fight after it sent thousands of troops and a pair of aircraft carriers to the region.
In an interview with the Financial Times published on Friday, Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas’ political leadership based in Lebanon, said the group “didn’t expect this much of a response” from the US.
“An Israeli response? Yes, we expected that,” he said. “But what we’re seeing now is the entrance of the US into the battle, and this we didn’t count on.”
Washington has made major shows of force in the Middle East since Hamas’ deadly October 7 attack on Israel, deploying two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Mediterranean, as well as an amphibious assault ship carrying 2,000 sailors and marines. US officials have said the moves were meant to deter outside actors from taking part in the Gaza war.
On Thursday, the Pentagon said it carried out airstrikes on two facilities in eastern Syria alleged to be used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and “affiliated” groups, claiming the operation was in “self-defense” following a string of rocket attacks on US troops. While the mission highlighted escalating US military action in the region, officials stressed that it was “separate and distinct” from the hostilities with Hamas.
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The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have pounded Gaza with airstrikes in response to Hamas’ attack earlier this month, which claimed around 1,400 lives, according to Israeli officials. More than 7,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed in weeks of IDF bombing since, with Israel now preparing a significant ground operation intended to eliminate Hamas.
Barakeh went on to say the militant group had at least 40,000 fighters in its ranks, and that most were based in extensive tunnel networks built under Gaza. “We have been prepared for a ground offensive,” he added, explaining that the underground complex is stocked with months of supplies.