Hamas chief vows to ‘continue the fight’
DOHA - Anadolu Agency
Mourners in Rafah attend the funeral of senior Hamas commanders Abu Shamaleh, al-Attar and Barhoum after they were killed in an Israeli airstrike. REUTERS PhotoHamas political chief Khaled Mashaal has vowed to continue fighting Israel until it meets Palestinian conditions for a permanent cease-fire, putting an emphasis on lifting the longstanding blockade of the Gaza Strip.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency yesterday, Mashaal accused Israel of perpetrating a “holocaust” in the embattled coastal enclave. “We are determined to realize the demands of the Palestinian people, especially lifting the siege and securing the release of [Palestinian] detainees,” Mashaal said.
Mashaal’s statements came as Israel killed three senior Hamas commanders in an airstrike on the Gaza Strip. The group named the men as Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum and said they were killed in the bombing of a house in the southern town of Rafah. All three were described as senior Hamas military figures.
“We will not give up until Palestinian demands – at the top of which is lifting the Gaza siege – are fulfilled,” Mashaal said. “Our message to the world is that it’s high time to deal with the root cause of the problem by ending the [Israeli] occupation and settlement building and allowing the Palestinian people to live in peace on their own land.”
The Doha-based Hamas leader went on to accuse Israel of perpetrating a “holocaust” in the Gaza Strip. “What Israel has done in the Gaza Strip over the last 45 days is a genuine holocaust,” Mashaal said. “They are killing children, destroying residential areas, mosques, hospitals and UNRWA-run schools.”
He said more than 2,000 Palestinians – a quarter of whom were children – had been killed in recent Israeli attacks. “Israel is replicating what [Nazi leader Adolf] Hitler did years ago.”
The Hamas chief, meanwhile, praised Turkish support for the Palestinian people. “Turkey has consistently provided political and popular support [for the Palestinian cause] along with [humanitarian] aid during the war and during the humanitarian ceasefires,” he said. The Hamas leader also hailed Qatari support for the Palestinian resistance – a position, he noted, that had recently drawn criticism from Israel. “It’s a source of pride for Qatar to be attacked by the enemy,” he said.
In Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians marched at the funeral of the three Hamas commanders, firing weapons into the air in anger and calling for revenge. “The assassinations of the three Qassam leaders is a grave crime,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters. “But it will not break our people and Israel will pay the price for it.”
In a joint statement, the Israeli military and Shin Bet security service emphasized the importance of Abu Shamaleh, Attar and Barhoum to the Hamas military operation. Abu Shamaleh had been the top Hamas commander in southern Gaza, it said. Attar was in charge of weapons smuggling into Gaza, the construction of attack tunnels and had played a role in the capture of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in 2006. Barhoum was a senior Hamas operative in Rafah, the statement said.