A senior Hamas leader on Friday rejected Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s offer of massive assistance to the Gaza Strip in return for the terrorists giving up their rockets and attack tunnels.
Responding to Liberman’s statement on Thursday that Israel wants to help build Gaza economically as soon as Hamas gives up terror, Mahmoud al-Zahar said that if Gaza wanted to be like Singapore it would have done so already, Hebrew media reported Friday.
Zahar, a spokesperson for the Hamas terrorist group, also said that Liberman’s call for Hamas to return the bodies of the fallen IDF soldiers and the three Israeli civilians it is holding in exchange for economic prosperity was misplaced.
Referring to Palestinian terrorists held in Israel jails, Zahar said that Hamas will only release the captives when Israel releases “all the heroic Palestinian fighters from all factions.”
Launching the new Arabic, Hebrew and English website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) — the Defense Ministry body that acts as liaison between Israel and the Palestinian territories — Liberman offered economic growth and prosperity for the residents of Gaza if they would only end the violence against Israel.
“The moment Hamas gives up on tunnels and rockets, we will be the first ones to invest and build [Gaza’s residents] a seaport, an airport, and industrial zones by the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings,” Liberman said. “We are able to immediately create about 40,000 jobs for the residents of Gaza.”
Liberman also said that the organization would have to agree to give up on cross-border terror tunnels, give up on rockets, “and of course, and this is the first and most important step, [facilitate] the return of the bodies of our soldiers and the citizens who are held captive by Hamas.”
Hamas is believed to be holding hostage three Israeli men who crossed into Gaza of their own accord — Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima, whose presence in Gaza is unconfirmed. It also holds the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who the army determined were killed in action in the 2014 Gaza war.
Israel withdrew all its troops and civilians from the Gaza Strip, home to almost 2 million Palestinians, in 2005. Since 2007 the enclave has been ruled by the Hamas terrorist organization after elections and a coup.
The group avowedly seeks the destruction of Israel and has fought three major rounds of conflict against it since 2007, fired thousands of rockets indiscriminately into it, tunneled under the border to carry out terror attacks and orchestrated suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis
Israel destroyed many of the tunnels during its 2014 war with Hamas, but the Strip’s Islamist rulers have since been rebuilding the network.
While Hamas leaders have at times expressed to English-language news outlets they would accept a state along the pre-1967 lines, the group’s official spokespeople and media continue on a near-daily basis to promise to take back the entire land of historic Palestine, including the entire state of Israel.
In January the group said it was rewriting its charter in a way that will remove its anti-Semitic language, but also made plain the group’s ongoing rejection of the Jews’ right to statehood in Israel.