Meshal: Hamas Will Go Back to War Against Israel if Upcoming Truce Talks Fail

Gaza movement's political leader warns it still has attack tunnels and rockets; says Mohammed Deif, whom Israel tried to assassinate, is 'fine.'

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Khaled Meshal, head of Hamas' political bureau.
Khaled Meshal, head of Hamas' political bureau.Credit: Reuters
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal said Thursday that his organization still has rockets and tunnels at its disposal, and will not hesitate to use them against Israel again if the negotiations for a long-term truce, set to begin within a month, come to naught.

"If necessary, if the negotiations fail, we will return to resistance until our goals are achieved," Hamas' political chief said at a news conference Thursday night in Qatar, where he is based.

Meshal also described the condition of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif, whom the Israel Air Force tried to assassinate on August 19, as "fine." Deif's wife and infant son were killed in the massive air strike on the family's home in Gaza, and Israeli authorities say it's unlikely Deif survived the attack if he was in the house, but they do not know if he was.

Asked how he could claim victory for Hamas when it accepted the same Egyptian cease-fire terms it rejected after the first week of the war, Meshal replied: "Our demands were just, but in the end we had the Palestinian demands on the one hand and the pain of Gaza's civilian population on the other. So we agreed to the cease-fire in the knowledge that the siege will be lifted, that the other issues like the seaport and airport will be on the negotiating table in another month, and that the weapon in the hands of the resistance are the guarantees that its goals, above all the building of an airport and seaport, along with the release of the prisoners, will be achieved."

'Revived Palestinian resistance'

Trumpeting what he sees as Hamas' achievements in its 50-day battle with Israel, which killed over 2,100 Palestinians and devastated much of the Strip before the fighting came to a halt on Tuesday with a cease-fire agreement, Meshal said: "This military campaign revived resistance as a realistic possibility for the Palestinian people." He added: "This is not the end of the battle to liberate the land."

He went on to say, "We presented the Palestinian national issue and the siege of Gaza before the international community. The peace talks [between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which ended in April] improved Israel's image in the world, but now the resistance has exposed Israel's true face. Israel can no longer present itself as the victim; it has become a burden on the world."

Meshal praised the Palestinian "resistance forces" on their accomplishments, saying, "We shattered the idea of the [Israeli] army that never surrenders. That's already happened before, but this time it happened to an unprecedented degree. We succeeded in creating mutual, equal deterrence on the basis of pain vs. pain."

As for international decisions calling for Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to be disarmed, Meshal said, "No power on earth can disarm the resistance. Israel is not interested in international decisions because Netanyahu is not interested in a political solution."

In remarks addressed to the Israeli public, he said: "Your leadership lies to you, and acts in the name of its self-interest to survive politically. You need to understand that there is no security as long as the occupation goes on. We are not enemies on account of religion, we respect every religion. Our enemy is the occupation."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a Thursday night interview on Palestinian TV interview that Netanyahu agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state on 1967 67 borders, and that the only remaining step is to set a border.

Abbas also said that two PA officials, senior negotiator Saeb Erekat and intelligence chief Majed Faraj, are to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry next week to discuss a future Palestinian state's borders.

Abbas said that in future negotiations with Israel the Palestinians will not agree to discuss technical details but will demand to define clear borders between the two states.

" ... We will not wait 20 more years," he added. "If they don't agree, we have options."

However, the Prime Minister's Office flatly denied Abbas' claim that Netanyahu agreed to the 1967 borders for a Palestinian state. "No such thing ever happened," Netanyahu's office said.

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