Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal has acknowledged that members of his organization killed three Israeli teenagers in June, while trying to distance his group from the savagery of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Meshal made the remarks in an interview with Yahoo News in Qatar, during which he also stated that Hamas is against the killing of civilians.
While noting that the group's leaders were unaware of the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank ahead of time, Meshal defended the attack as a legitimate action against Israeli "oppression."
"We were not aware of this action taken by this group of Hamas members in advance," he told Yahoo News. "But we understand people are frustrated under the occupation and the oppression, and they take all kinds of action."
He then stressed that Hamas leaders only learned of the operatives' actions after they had been apprehended.
"We learned about these confessions from the Israeli investigation … Hamas political leadership was not aware of all these details. We learned about it later on," he said.
"Our view is that soldiers and settlers on the West Bank are aggressors, and they are illegally living in this occupied and stolen land," he added. "And the right to resist is the right of Palestinians."
Meshal rejected the comparison made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between Hamas and the Islamic State, calling the statement a lie meant to manipulate the American public.
"We are not a religious, violent group," Meshal said, calling the Islamic State a "totally different phenomenon. We are fighting against aggression in our land."
He further stated that Hamas is against the killing of any civilians, adding that the group will make efforts to warn Israelis of impending rocket attacks in advance.
"We do not target civilians, and we try most of the time to aim at military targets and Israeli bases," Meshal said.
"But we admit that we have a problem. We do not have sophisticated weapons. We do not have the weapons available to our enemy … so aiming is difficult. We do promise you, though, that we will try in the future and we will warn people … We have given warnings to Israeli civilians. We promise that if we get more precise weapons, we will only target military targets."
There is little evidence that Hamas aims munitians at military installations or army bases - nearly all the 2,500-3,000 rockets and mortars Hamas has fired at Israel since the start of the war seem to have been aimed at towns, cities and communities.
Hamas also told Yahoo News, "The truth is that the Palestinians are not terrorists, they are victims of terrorism. Hamas is not the terrorist, but the Israelis are, just see their actions."
Meshal spoke to Yahoo News after two days of meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
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