Hamas has warned Israel that another war is inevitable unless its occupation of Palestine ends and the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza is resolved.
Speaking exclusively to Sky News, in the first interview since mediation talks in Egypt ended, a senior Hamas official said that the fight will continue “with all means”, until an independent Palestinian state is established.
“We can defeat Israel, we can target Israel, we have targeted Israel many times,” Dr Ghazi Hamad said.
“Israel has stolen my land. We are the victims. You have to understand, we are the victims of the occupation. We don’t trust Israel. We don’t believe Israel is interested in peace.”
Dr Hamad said he refused to recognise the state of Israel and didn’t rule out another conflict:
“Everything is open. Hamas tries to avoid wars, we try to protect our people, we try to give people a good life here, but the occupation all the time is right in front of my eyes.”
In recent days, senior Hamas leadership has been in neighbouring Egypt, negotiating a longer ceasefire with Israel.
The talks have stalled over the details of a prisoner exchange – Hamas is demanding hundreds of Palestinians be released, in return for two living Israelis and the bodies of two dead soldiers.
Israel and Gaza have fought four wars since 2006.
Both sides are regrouping after the most recent eleven-day conflict in May which killed at least 243 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel.
More than a hundred of those were women and children, all of them Palestinians except for two.
“Ok we can be killed, they can come and destroy everything, but at the same time Israel will never see the stability unless Palestinians see stability and security,” Dr Hamad told Sky News.
“It is our right, our national right (to strike Israel). Israel should understand that sooner or later we will win, because we are the owners of this land.”
Around 1.6 million people live in Gaza – half of those are children – while roughly 50% of the adult population is unemployed, almost all the water is undrinkable and 64% live in extreme poverty.
Israel blames Hamas for inciting violence by firing rockets into southern Israel and claims it strikes back only in self-defence.
Dr Hamad’s threats to Israel undermine recent optimism, particularly in Palestinian media, that an agreement could be reached between the two sides to extend the ceasefire.
The Israeli coalition government is fragile, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett knows a prisoner swap will be criticised heavily by the right wing of his party.
It’s also thought the Israeli government could be buying time to ensure the state budget receives enough support to pass through the Knesset next month.
But although both sides claim they want peace, and say an escalation in violence wouldn’t be in their interests, the political gap between the two still appears to be wide.
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