Hamas' political leader has said that his Islamist organization is willing to form an investigative committee to present "the facts" of its actions during the winter conflict with Israel, following a United Nations report which accused both sides of war crimes during the hostilities.
"When Hamas deals seriously with the Goldstone report, with some reservations on it, this is evidence that Hamas respects the international law and is ready to cooperate with this law," Khaled Meshal told the Web site Palestine Note in an interview from his base in Damascus.
"If the report or any other side has any reservations on Hamas' actions, we are ready to explain them and we will form an honest and neutral investigative committee in Gaza to give Goldstone and its committee and the international community the facts."
South African jurist Richard Goldstone, who headed the commission of inquiry set up by the UN human rights council, said when the report was released in September that, "The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defense Force (IDF)."
Goldstone added that, "There's no question that the firing of rockets and mortars [by armed groups from Gaza] was deliberate and calculated to cause loss of life and injury to civilians and damage to civilian structures. The mission found that these actions also amount to serious war crimes and also possibly crimes against humanity."
But Meshal rejected the claim that Hamas had deliberately targeted Israeli civilians during the fighting, when thousands of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip - which it controls - into Israeli communities.
"Hamas does not aim to kill civilians. Hamas does not want to target the civilians," he said. "Hamas defends itself, but because it has simple abilities and its rockets are inaccurate in targeting, so it reaches the civilians, but we do not intend to do that."
The Hamas leader also said that the group is willing to abide by any international attempts to secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and that Hamas is willing to accept the borders that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War.
He added that the onus was the Obama administration to pressure Israel into working toward an agreement. He said that the United States and the international community had been unable to get Israel to even suspend settlement construction in the West Bank, which he said cast doubt on the American ability to persuade Israel to advance the peace process.
"The Obama administration tried to force [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to freeze the settlements in order to start the negotiations, but he refused," Meshal said. "So if neither the Obama administration nor the international community were able to freeze the settlements for a period of one year, how will they force him to withdraw from the 1967 borders?"
"Whether with the Palestinians or with Syria, how are they going to force him to recognize the Palestinian rights in Jerusalem and the right to return and the land? As a matter of fact, the problem is with Israel and the problem is there should be an international will, led by the Obama administration to force Israel not to rebel against the international law."
Meshal said that the Palestinians, including Hamas, would be willing to accept a peace deal based on the 1967, and warned that this was the only option for peace.
"...[I]f the Arabs and the Palestinians found seriousness from the American administration in pressuring Israel to withdraw to 1967 borders, and recognize the Palestinian and Arab rights and stops its occupation and aggression, I'm telling you that the Arabs and Palestinians will cooperate with the American administration and there will be peace in the region," he told Palestine Note. "Without that, the struggle will remain and all the American and international attempts will fail because in brief they're not moving in the right direction."
Courtesy of Palestine Note