GAZA CITY - The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip vowed on Monday the Palestinian resistance, backed by the population, would emerge victorious over Israel's offensive.
"We are approaching victory," Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, said in his broadcast from an undisclosed location.
"I tell you that after 17 days of this foolish war, Gaza has not been broken and Gaza will not fall."
Haniya also said the "blood of children" who have been killed in the conflict would serve as a "curse which will come back to haunt" US President George W. Bush, as well as the leaders of Israel.
Bush has consistently backed the Israeli military in words and deeds.
Haniya said that Hamas was ready to "examine in a positive manner any initiative which can put an end to this aggression and the blood of our children being shed."
Hamas representatives are currently in Cairo to discuss an Egyptian initiative which calls for an immediate ceasefire and talks on opening Gaza's border crossings and taking steps to prevent arms smuggling.
Haniya said any initiative must insist on "an immediate halt to aggression, the withdrawal of the Zionist forces from the Gaza Strip and the reopening of the border crossings and a total lifting of the siege" of the territory.
Medics said at least another 26 people had been killed by the Israeli military, bringing the overall toll to 918, including 277 children. Another 4,100 have been wounded.
Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed in combat or by rocket attacks since the operation began on December 27.
An Israeli army spokesman said that close to 30 missiles had been launched from Gaza on Monday, although there were no reports of casualties.
A military spokesman said warplanes had hit more than 60 targets during the day.
Israeli officials on Sunday suggested what is now Israel's deadliest onslaught against Gaza could be approaching its end.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who is to head to the Middle East later this week, called on Israel and Hamas to immediately stop the fighting, saying "too many people have died."
"We have a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate and enduring ceasefire. This resolution must be observed."
Meanwhile Israel suffered another humiliating reverse at the hands of the United Nations, when the world body's Human Rights Council adopted a resolution accusing it of "grave" human rights violations against Palestinians.
Attention was also focusing on the task of rebuilding Gaza after the war, with the Czech Republic, which currently holds the revolving EU presidency, saying it would convene a donor conference to address humanitarian needs.
Aid deliveries have been massively disrupted by Israel, with agencies warning that Palestinian residents are running out of food and even having to burn their furniture to stay warm in the bitterly cold nights.