In a rare interview with Israeli media, Hamas Gaza top terrorist Yahya Sinwar told a Yediot Acharonot reporter that Hamas “does not want war. It is definitely not in our interests. Who wants to fight a nuclear power with the four slingshots we are equipped with?”
That doesn’t mean that he is ready to make peace, however. “I didn’t say I would stop fighting, I said I do not want war. What I want is an end to the siege of Gaza. My first responsibility is to my people, to act in their interests – to protect them, their rights, and their independence.” Responsibility for the violence, he said, “falls on those who seek to close borders, not on those who seek to open them. My responsibility is to work with those who want to end the siege.” Failure to do so, he said, “will lead to an inevitable explosion.”
As far as the Israelis held by Hamas – including the remains of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Haim Oron – they can be released immediately, if Israel agrees to release terrorists from its prisons. “An exchange of prisoners is an absolute requirement, a moral question – not a political one. I see it as an obligation to do everything I can to release everyone from prison.” Sinwar himself spent 22 years in an Israeli prison on terror charges, and has been leader of Hamas after being released in the deal to free kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Sinwar said that he had chosen this time to grant an interview because it seemed that “the time is right. I see a real opportunity for change,” despite the fact that talks between Israel and Hamas on a ceasefire appear to have broken down.
Israeli officials have been concerned that a new, more violent situation is developing in Gaza. In recent weeks, as third-party negotiators tried to hammer out a deal on a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the number of rioters at the border – in other words, the number that Hamas recruited to throw rocks and firebombs at Israeli soldiers – had dropped significantly, but on recent Fridays the numbers have picked up again, indicating that Hamas had given a green light for more aggressive action against Israel.
The indirect talks between Israel and Hamas sponsored by Egypt and U.N. officials, which had been conducted in earnest until several weeks ago but were halted for a week for a Muslim festival, have not restarted. With diplomatic activity ceasing, Israeli officials believe that Hamas will reopen the door to terror attacks, and probably rocket attacks, in order to show its relevance to Gazans and to the PA.
In a separate report, the Telegraph covered a meeting of top Hamas terrorists in which Sinwar laid out the organization’s strategy. Hamas is prepared to end all attacks on Israel, including rockets and terror balloons, if the latter would agree to open borders, and to allow for the entry of all goods into Gaza. If this fails, he said, Hamas would “turn the tables” on Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, and cause them all to “suffer,” he said.