On May 24, Sky News published an interview with Hamas’s founding member Mahmoud al-Zahar in which he said that Israel has no right to exist. He further added that the terrorist organization’s plan was to target the crowded civilian centres of Israel. The interview was conducted by Mark Stone, who had visited al-Zahar in his Gaza home. Notably, Israel and Gaza have announced a ceasefire that began on Friday.
‘Ability to hit Israeli civilian areas is Hamas’s victory’
During the interview, 76-year-old al-Zahar claimed it was Hamas’s victory as the terrorist organization managed to fire rockets on densely populated Israeli civilian areas. He said, “The new element is the degree of the resistance movement, particularly in Gaza, to attack the Israeli targets at very important points, including most of the overcrowded area in the civilian society. So for how long the Israeli will accept that, I think this is the main issue.”
As per reports, Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating from Gaza fired over 4,300 rockets at Israel during 11 days of the war. The people living near Gaza were forced to live in bomb shelters around the clock.
Stone called out Hamas’s war crime of firing rockets and missiles from civilian dwellings in Gaza at civilians in Israel. He said, “That’s not acceptable, that’s a war crime.” Al-Zahar bluntly rejected the accusation and claimed that no rockets were fired from civilian areas. He said, “We [fired] most of the rockets from the border.”
When Stone mentioned the video proof of rockets being fired from the built-up area of Gaza city at Israeli communities, Al-Zahar said, “This is not against Israeli communities. This is against Israeli occupation. This is against Israeli aggression.”
Loss of life on both sides
As per reports, 12 civilians, including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl, and one soldier lost their lives in the rocket attacks in Israel. Hundreds of other civilians and soldiers were injured. The AI-based security system known as Iron Dome played a vital role in saving thousands of lives in Israel by intercepting the rockets mid-air.
On the other hand, in Gaza, at least 243 Palestinians were killed, as reported by Hamas-run Health Ministry. Out of those 243 dead, 66 were children and teens. 1,910 people were injured. The Palestinian side did not reveal how many civilians and how many members of the terrorist group were killed. According to the Israeli army, some of the deaths in Gaza were due to rockets fired by Hamas falling short and landing inside Gaza itself.
When Stone asked him if ceasefire would hold, he said, “Yes, I think the most important point is the degree of impact on both sides.”
Hamas spending on the military to save itself from Israel, claimed Al-Zahar
When Al-Zahar was cornered by Stone about the money Hamas is spending on military infrastructure, including tunnels, he claimed that Hamas’s steps to increase military might are to save itself against “the Israeli aggression.” For them, money spent on the military is more important than Gaza’s development.
Israel does not have the right to exist – Al-Zahar
Stone bluntly asked Al-Zahar, “Does the State of Israel have the right to exist?” He categorically denied it and said, “No. Why? Why? You are coming from America, and you take my house. You came from Britain, and you took my brother’s house. This is a settlement. You are not a citizen. We are the owners of this. This is an Arabic area. This is well-known as an Islamic area, well-known,” Al-Zahar said. He further added that practically, it has been proved that two-state theory is not possible.
He said, “It is not my assessment. Go and ask [Palestinian president] Mahmoud Abbas ‘are you now saying a two state solution is viable or not?’ He will say no. The Israelis are not going to accept a two-state solution.” he further added, “People went and they sat down at the table and signed an agreement and so on and failed. You are now asking me to practise a failed process?”
The possible role of the US in ‘peace talks’
According to Al-Zahar, it was irrelevant to talk about peace with Israel. He denied answering any question related to peace talks and deemed them as “impractical questions.” When Stone asked if as a Palestinian he was willing to live with Israeli Jews, Al-Zahar said that he was not against Jews as they have ‘given’ east area to them. He said, “We are against the occupation.” He added he would be willing to talk to President Joe Biden though he had extended support to Israel.
Reports suggest that the United States is planning to head a multi-billion international effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip that has been destroyed during an 11-day fight. By providing financial support, the US wants to put pressure on Hamas “not to resume fight.”