Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Hamas says won't abandon rockets under Israel attack

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Tuesday Palestinians would continue to target Israel with rockets until the Jewish state ended what he called its "onslaught" in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

But he said the Islamist group would consider any deal that ended Israeli attacks and restored Palestinian rights.

Hamas leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas says it will not formally recognise Israel and its 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

"We are dealing with aggressive Zionist behaviour. Let Israel stop its aggression and its occupation of Palestinian land and the resistance, including rockets, will stop," Meshaal told Reuters in an interview.

"If the Zionists make an offer we will study it. Our cause is based on steadfastness and patience. The enemy will not break us," he said.

Israel says its attacks on Gaza, which have killed and wounded scores of Palestinians, and a blockade on the narrow coastal strip are aimed at stopping rockets and cutting support for the groups firing them.

Meshaal said international pressure that forced Israel to resume fuel deliveries to a power plant in Gaza should continue until the blockade was removed.

"This immoral and inhumane siege has been going on for months. The Arabs must take responsibility as well and not leave the Palestinians alone," Meshaal said, referring to the repeated closures of a crossing to Egypt.


Asked about what Hamas critics call the futility of armed struggle against Israel's far superior military forces, Meshaal said there was no other way to force Israel to relinquish occupied land.

"A diplomatic effort without strong cards and Palestinian unity that does away with resistance lacks the basis for success," Meshaal said, referring to peace talks with Israel led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The talks were launched after the Annapolis peace conference, which was hosted by the United States in November.

"These talks are useless with Israel insisting on holding on to the big settlements, refusing to respect the 1967 line and the refugees' right of return," he said.

Meshaal repeated his call on Abbas to accept unconditional talk with Hamas to solve differences between the two groups that have led to violence and two administrations in Gaza and the West bank.

"It is time to turn the page on the peace talks and reach consensus on a new strategy that forces Israel to return Palestinian land," Meshaal said.

Palestinian groups opposed to the peace talks, including Hamas, will hold a large meeting in Damascus on Wednesday.

Organisers said the conference, which will be also attended by a number of independent and national Palestinian figures, will issue a call for unity.

"We have no option but to hold on to national rights and sit on the table to solve the internal Palestinian crisis," he said. (Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)
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