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The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram quoted Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshal on Tuesday as saying his Islamist group was surprised by the force Israel recently used against it in the Gaza Strip.

Meshal, who was speaking at an Arab conference on Gaza in the Qatari capital Doha, reportedly told a closed forum that Hamas had believed that Israel's 22-day campaign against it would last no longer than three days. The offensive ended Sunday, after Israel and Hamas separately declared a cease-fire.

"We didn't expect the crimes that were committed against our citizens, the residents of Gaza," Al-Ahram quoted the Damascus-based Meshal as saying.

Approximately 500 Hamas militants were killed in the operation, Israeli estimates state, and hundreds more were wounded.

The IDF also killed hundreds of militants belonging to various armed factions and militias. More than 1,250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the offensive. Hamas says just 48 of its fighters died in the fighting.

According to Al-Ahram, Meshal said there were meant to be massive protests in front of Egyptian embassies across the Arab world, to pressure Cairo into opening its border crossing with Gaza at Rafah.

"We had relied on the Arab street," Meshal is quoted as saying. These protests never took place, although there were major demonstrations around the world against Israel for its actions in Gaza.

Egypt boycotted the Doha summit, suspecting that Hamas and its sponsors, Syria and Iran, would use it as a platform for a hard-line position and hurt Egypt's efforts to mediate a Gaza truce.