Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has said Israel's latest offensive in Gaza, Operation Pillar of Defense, marks a new phase in the history of Palestine and the resistance.
“This stage forms a turning point from the stage of preparation and development to the stage of defending and liberating the land and Jerusalem,” he told Today's Zaman in an interview. He emphasized that with this new phase of the conflict with Israel, which started with the onset of the eight-day offensive, Hamas proved its prowess and commitment against Israel. “They [Israel] attacked Gaza to bring us into line, but it was the resistance that put them into line. We all know how many times [US President Barack] Obama called [Egyptian President Mohamed] Morsi to convey Israel's appeal for a truce. Our victory manifested with the desperate calls of Israel for a cease-fire and the resignation of the tyrant,” he said, referring to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's recent decision to quit politics.
Regarding the cease-fire, Haniyeh stated that it may last “for days or years” and implied that the cease-fire process serves as part of the “preparation” stage, while the movement gets ready for the next attack through preparing their “bodies” and “army.” He further made it clear that Hamas's strategy is and will be based on an armed struggle. “When we say that things will calm down for days or years, this is part of a broader vision. Our strategy will and shall remain on both armed resistance and politics,” he said.
He pointed out that the Palestinian people consider resistance as the only strategic and viable way to liberate the land. “Once again the Palestinian people proved that their will and ability to challenge Zionism has been much greater than all the occupation's expectations,” said Haniyeh.
Urging the Palestinian movement to unite, Haniyeh called on all the Palestinian factions to maintain trust in each other, to put aside their differences and support the resistance by developing a unified strategy, saying, “We should all fight against the enemy, rather than being preoccupied with intra fighting and debates.” He said Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere are also calling on the resistance to unite, while celebrating the latest victory. Haniyeh pointed out the latest “victory” constituted a starting base and golden opportunity for unification and a new intifada to “defeat the occupier and liberate all Palestine, including Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.” He further defined the Palestinian borders as “Palestine as we know it, whose borders were drawn by our heroes from Ras Al-Naqoura to Rafah and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.”
“With every attack we grow stronger,” said Haniyeh and welcomed the support of the Revolutionary Council of the Fatah movement from the West Bank for Hamas. He pointed out the strategic importance of the West Bank for the resistance movement due to “its history, geography and closeness to the occupied cities by the enemy,” and stated, “The West Bank will form the center of the decisive battle against the occupation. Every stone thrown from the West Bank at Israel brings us closer to victory.”
Haniyeh emphasized that the Palestinian struggle is the most important cause in the Muslim World and should be central for any party in the region. “Palestine is a trial for the Muslim world, which will demonstrate whether we are strong or weak.” Accordingly, Haniyeh stressed that all Muslim countries should act in unison despite their differences on the issue. “Arab revolutions proved the Islamic awakening,” he said, praising the role of Arab Spring countries, particularly Egypt and its President Morsi, in supporting Gaza and confronting the Israeli aggression. “We are thankful to Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and all other countries that demonstrated that the Middle East is no longer a comfort zone for Israel,” he said.