Hamas chief: We cannot coexist with ‘occupiers’

AFP-JIJI

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal demanded Israel lift its blockade of Gaza and warned that Palestinians cannot coexist with their neighbors while their land is occupied, in an interview broadcast Sunday.

On Saturday, Meshaal was interviewed by U.S. broadcaster PBS in the Qatari capital Doha while in Gaza his Islamist militia was under assault from Israeli forces in renewed fighting that has left hundreds dead.

A full version of the interview will be broadcast late on Monday, but excerpts were revealed on Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

Asked by veteran interviewer Charlie Rose whether he could foresee living beside Israelis in peace, Meshaal said only a future Palestinian state could decide whether to recognize the Jewish state.

“We are not fanatics, we are not fundamentalists. We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers,” he said.

“I’m ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs,” he said. “However, I do not coexist with the occupiers.”

Pressed on whether Palestinians could recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state, Meshaal reiterated Hamas’ position — the group does not recognize Israel.

“When we have a Palestinian state, then the Palestinian state will decide on its policies. You cannot actually ask me about the future. I answered you,” he said.

“But Palestinian people can have their say when they have their own state without occupation.”

Hamas declared a 24-hour ceasefire on Sunday, but fighting continued in Gaza and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his forces would push on with attempts to destroy the group’s tunnel network.