Gaza staying out of current ‘intifada,’ Hamas claims
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Gaza staying out of current ‘intifada,’ Hamas claims

Terror group says it doesn’t want to go to war with Israel, despite cheering violence from sidelines

Palestinian youth supporting the Hamas movement take part in a rally marking the 28th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, December 14, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/FLASH90)
Palestinian youth supporting the Hamas movement take part in a rally marking the 28th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, December 14, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/FLASH90)

Hamas made a strategic decision at the beginning of the current Palestinian wave of violence that Gaza will stay out of the fighting, a senior official from the terror group told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

According to the unnamed official, the Hamas leadership is not interested in an escalation with Israel on the Gaza front, and vice versa.

He also confirmed that an exchange of messages had taken place between the two sides, as reported by The Times of Israel on Friday.

The messages were conveyed through Turkey and Qatar, among other countries.

Security officials told the Ynet news site that Israeli security officials were concerned that rising tensions, on both sides of the border, over Hamas’s renewed efforts to tunnel under the Gaza border would cause the terror group to assume an Israeli assault was forthcoming. This could possibly lead it to attack Israel preemptively.

Still from an August 2015 Hamas video purporting to show a Gaza tunnel dug under the Israeli border (Ynet screenshot)
Still from an August 2015 Hamas video purporting to show a Gaza tunnel dug under the Israeli border (Ynet screenshot)

A senior Hamas official told The Times of Israel last week that Hamas does not want war and is committed to maintaining a fragile ceasefire with Israel.

Despite Hamas’s recent pronouncements that its tunnels reach into Israeli territory and it is working to launch “high-quality” terror attacks against Israelis from the West Bank, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity: “Our stance is clear: We don’t want an escalation [of violence] and we don’t want war.”

“We have no intention at this time or in the future to begin a war, and from our perspective that option is not on the table,” the official said, urging Israel to respond with restraint to the recent Hamas rhetoric.

These reports come in the wake of a poll carried out by the Arab World for Research and Development Institute (AWRAD) and published in the Palestinian media indicating that popular support for the current wave of violence has shrunk from 63 percent in November to 42%. The poll also indicated that 54% of respondents opposed the outbreak of violence in the first place, and 50% believed that a third intifada would delay plans for an independent Palestinian state.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes outside the compound of the Israeli-run Ofer Prison near Ramallah on February 5, 2016 (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)
A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes outside the compound of the Israeli-run Ofer Prison near Ramallah on February 5, 2016 (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)

Although Hamas has not taken a central role in the current wave of violence as it did in the Second Intifada, the group has nonetheless been vocal in its support of terror attacks on Israelis.

In late December, Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of the group in Gaza, praised those carrying out attacks and described how they had succeeded in shaking Israelis’ sense of security.

“This is an intifada for liberation and is not seeking to move forward negotiations,” Haniyeh said.

Hamas also released an official statement praising the February 3 attack on a group of border policewomen at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate which killed Hadar Cohen, 19.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich at the scene of a shooting and stabbing attack near Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, February 3, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich at the scene of a shooting and stabbing attack near Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, February 3, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The group’s spokesman, Hosam Badran, called the attack “a turning point in the holy Jerusalem intifada” and praised “the courage of the three martyred ‘resisters’ and their ability to get past all the barriers put in place by the occupation and to arrive at Damascus Gate to carry out this heroic deed which shook Israel’s security.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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