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A Hamas Response To Israeli Peace Terms And The Violence In Gaza


We're going to hear from Hamas now. Ihab al-Ghussain is a spokesman for the group. He's deputy information minister. And earlier, he spoke with us from Gaza. I asked about the recent cease-fire proposal from Egypt that Israel accepted. Hamas turned it down. Mr. al-Ghussain said that the Palestinian people were not consulted on the cease-fire terms. I asked him, what about the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas? And he said, he doesn't represent Palestinians.

IHAB AL-GHUSSAIN: He's talking about another war. He's not taken the requirements and what the conditions that Palestinian factions ask for - not for the Palestinians. So I'm telling you - sadly to say - that he's representing the Israeli stance, not our stance for us Palestinians. There is leaders for the Palestinian factions and all of them are united on any cease-fire agreement should have and include the requirements of the Palestinians. We're talking about making us - giving us our freedom as a Palestinian community in Gaza, lifting the siege, opening the borders. But so any...

SIEGEL: But Hamas - but when Hamas demands opening up the borders - that is opening the crossings from Gaza into Egypt and Israel - would your group accept, as a condition of a cease-fire, that the Palestinian Authority, led by Mr. Abbas's group, Fatah, not Hamas, would man those crossings and provide security there? Is that a term you could accept in exchange for ending this fighting?

AL-GHUSSAIN: Well, that thing - actually, we have flexibility in that. We don't matter - it doesn't matter who's going to be there. And we're talking that in the end, what we need is to have freedom for our people. We talked many years ago that if the conditions was Ms. Mahmoud Abbas' security agency's a condition to be on the borders, we don't - we don't - it doesn't matter. In the details, we have many flexibility in that. But the problem is in closing these borders, not letting the people go and come. We're talking about two million people are put in a big jail in here, in Gaza so that they can't move. They can't go and come. This is a big problem we've lived in since eight years ago.

SIEGEL: Yes. Some people look at this conflict and say, Hamas knows exactly what will happen after barrages of rockets are fired into Israel. It'll begin with Israeli airstrikes, and if the rocket fire continues, there will be an Israeli ground assault. Given how predictable this is, is it fair to say that the firing of rockets is a failed strategy for Hamas? It hasn't helped the people of Gaza or the Palestinian people, more generally.

AL-GHUSSAIN: Well, a main point that everyone should know that we did not want this war. We didn't start this. The Israelis started this. They started the killing. They started the strikes, and nobody in the world will accept that he will get hit and keep watching and keep silent. Yes, maybe some people will say, whatever your rockets and missiles will do? Yes, we know that nobody can compare the weapons with the resistance factions with Israeli weapons. But in the end, I'm not going to keep silent in front of them killing me. I should defend myself. I should rescue my people with whatever I have. Us Palestinians look that they don't have anything to lose. They are getting killed. They are being put in a big siege. They can't move. Their houses were destroyed. So let's do it and defend ourselves and stand in front of this occupation or get killed.

SIEGEL: There are people who would say that the Hamas strategy is to bring this about - is to present the Palestinians as being still more victimized and to provoke an Israeli assault. What do you say to that - that you what know the result will be of this conflict and you are using it?

AL-GHUSSAIN: Do you really believe that there is any people and person in the world that he will let his people get killed so that he shows the world that he's victimized? That's not correct, actually. And this is propaganda and media that we shouldn't believe. We are paining. The people who are getting killed are my relatives, are my friends. Maybe I'll be the one who is going to get killed in the next moment. So that's - nobody can believe this propaganda and story.

SIEGEL: Just one last question. Can you describe for me how you can imagine this conflict ending in a way that is realistic and that will have the support of the Palestinian people and the Israelis?

AL-GHUSSAIN: Well, it's not easy, but at the same time I see it's simple. Just give the Palestinians their freedom. Give the Palestinians their rights by lifting the siege, opening the borders and giving the freedom like any community in the world, and it will be end. Is it hard to give the Palestinians their freedom? Is it strange to give it - their freedom? Is it hard to give them their freedom? So help us in that - to give the Palestinians their freedom by just lifting the siege, opening the borders, and everything will be OK.

SIEGEL: But you know that the Israelis wouldn't recognize the freedom of Hamas to rearm once the borders are open. That's something they will oppose.

AL-GHUSSAIN: Well, we're not talking about Hamas freedom. We're talking about the Palestinian freedom. We are talking about 2 million people here in Gaza. Do you believe if they want to make something against Hamas do you accept a collective punishment as what's happening here? So they should be stopped by the world community - by America. But if they didn't do anything to them, actually, we're going to have pressure on the proceedings. And, you know, whenever you make pressure on anyone, he will explode anytime.

SIEGEL: Ihab al-Ghussein, spokesman for Hamas in Gaza. Thank you very much for talking with us today.

AL-GHUSSAIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.