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“The Israeli government is responsible for all the consequences and implications of its escalation,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. “Hamas will not let Palestinian blood be a price for Israeli political and electoral gains.”

Israel considers Hamas responsible for all violence that comes from Gaza, but Hamas‘ active participation in the fighting could prompt Israel to respond more harshly to the attacks.

In a precautionary measure, Hamas evacuated major security installations in fear of an Israeli attack. But political leaders and government officials worked in their offices as usual.

While it remains virulently anti-Israel, Hamas has largely refrained from major attacks over the past four years. It has also sought to keep things quiet as it consolidates control in the territory, which it seized five years ago in a violent takeover.

It is under pressure, however, from smaller militant groups in Gaza to prove it continues to uphold its armed resistance to Israel, and it sometimes joins the hostilities.

The coastal strip is home to numerous militant groups, including murky al-Qaida-inspired organizations that do not answer to Hamas. Gaza has also been flooded with weapons in recent years, many of them believed to have been smuggled from northern Africa and into Gaza through tunnels under the Egyptian border.

Barzak reported from Gaza City. Additional reporting from Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah and Lauren E. Bohn in Jerusalem.