Hamas will not agree to a ceasefire deal, until Israel "lifts the siege" on Gaza, the organisation’s political chief has said.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper published Friday, Khaled Meshael has said his organization will not accept a truce involving only a cessation of fire by both sides, and that any deal should secure long term political and economic gains for Palestinians.
With mediators gathered in Cairo negotiating an end to the conflict, Meshaal, for the first time, laid bare the three principle demands by his organisation.
Israel must "stop the aggression" of air strikes against targets in Gaza, release the dozens of Palestinians detained in response to last month’s killing of three Israeli students in the West Bank, and "end the siege on Gaza permanently."
"These are our clear demands," said Meshaal in his first interview since the new conflict in Gaza flared up. "We won’t accept an agreement that prolongs the suffering of our people anymore. The demands go much further than a return to the Egyptian-brokered truce in Cairo in 2012, which ended eight days of fighting in the Gaza strip."
Meshaal said that an easing of the restrictions was no longer acceptable and that Hamas will not stop at nothing short of a "full and permanent" lifting of the blockade that, as well traffic of people and goods at the border crossings.
Meshaal refused to expand on the finer points of the lifting of the siege, saying that a detailed framework has already been handed to the interlocutors. Hamas was willing to work with "any mediator" so long as the group’s demands were honoured, he asserted.
Meshaal acknowledged that, in addition to Egypt, Turkey and Qatar were also now playing a mediating role. Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani last Wednesday flew to Turkey to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reportedly to discuss a proposed ceasefire initiative, the paper said.
Now in it’s tenth day, the fighting in Gaza, has seen 237 Palestinians killed, including 43 children. Israel has suffered two fatalities -- one a soldier who died in a land operation in northern Gaza over the past hours.
When asked whether firing the rockets, which are largely ineffective in the face of Israel’s protective Iron Dome shield, was worthwhile in the face of so many Palestinian deaths, Meshaal remained defiant: "If the rockets are not effective, why is the international community now pushing for a ceasefire?" he said, claiming that the attacks had rattled Israel’s foreign backers.
He explained that Hamas’ calculation is "not about the impact of each rocket" but the political effect they have in Israel, and that they are a symbol of the Palestinian’s will to resist "occupation."
The leader of Hamas said the Palestinian issue could no longer just "be placed on the table for discussion" and that, this time, it had to be resolved.
He insinuated that, with the latest round of peace talks, led by the US Secretary of State John Kerry having failed, a return to violent "resistance" had become necessary.
"It’s normal that you see these cycles of violence. This has been going on for tens of years and it will continue until we reach an end to this occupation," said Meshaal.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians had reached boiling point just before the new Gaza conflict, over the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli students of a religious school last month.
The Hamas leader refused to condemn the perpetrators of the murders, saying that there was "no self respecting Palestinian who would condemn the killing of a settler and those people were settlers. It’s the Palestinian’s right to resist against Israelis, be it soldier or settler, as long as he lives on occupied land."
Meshaal said: "All the Palestinian factions got together, with Hamas at the forefront to defend its people and retaliate against Israel’s aggression."
Truce agreements to stop the conflict have so far failed and Israel began last a ground offensive.
Meshaal said his organisation was not consulted about an Egyptian brokered ceasefire agreement earlier this week, for which Israel held its fire for six hours: "We heard about the ceasefire deal through the media. We were not consulted. Every oppressed person fights and tries to gain independence with very limited resources; that’s how they fought in South Africa, and in the French Revolution.
The Palestinians know Israel is stronger than them, but the Palestinains are also determined to liberate their land."