Hamas urges West Bank uprising, vows to rebuild tunnels

If Palestinian ‘resistance’ in the West Bank had a quarter of the tools that Gaza holds, Mahmoud al-Zahar says, Israel would be wiped out in a day

Mahmoud al-Zahar attends a demonstration in Khan Yunis in 2012. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)
Mahmoud al-Zahar attends a demonstration in Khan Yunis in 2012. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has changed the opinions of certain global players who now wish to hold dialog with the group, senior Hamas member Mahmoud al-Zahar said Saturday, according to Ynet.

Al-Zahar said nations – he did not give specifics – which had previously regarded his organization as a terrorist group had now undergone a change of heart.

The Hamas leader also called for an armed uprising in the West Bank. He said the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel was a crime and urged its forces to change direction and fight against Israel.

“If the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank had a quarter of the tools that the resistance in Gaza holds, Israel would be wiped out in a day,” he said.

Al-Zahar repeated the organization’s claim that it had been victorious in the Gaza war, saying the group would “build new tunnels” into Israel to replace those destroyed by the Israeli army.

“Victory has many fathers while defeat has only one father named [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” he said.

A senior army intelligence official has admitted that Israel underestimated the tenacity of Gaza terrorists and did not expect the July-August 50-day conflict to last so long — insisting, however, they were soundly beaten.

The conflict, which ended with a fire last week, killed more than 2,100 Gazans — 1,000 of whom Israel says were engaged in active combat, and others that it accuses terrorists of using as human shields during the clashes — as well as 66 soldiers and six civilians on the Israeli side, in the bloodiest battle to date between the Jewish state and Hamas.

“If you’d asked me two months ago, I wouldn’t assess that it’s going to take us 50 days,” the Israeli official told journalists in English at a briefing in Tel Aviv late Tuesday.

“We thought it’s going to take them a shorter time to understand what happened, and we are mistaken here. It’s a tactical assessment mistake, but it’s a mistake,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But the official said Hamas, the main power in Gaza, and Islamic Jihad, the next biggest terror group, were soundly beaten.

“We think they are in very bad shape,” he said.

Amid reports that tensions between Hamas and Fatah could hinder the reconstruction of Gaza, al-Zahar said Wednesday he was confident that the Palestinian public wouldn’t hold the group responsible.

What happens next in Gaza “is the responsibility of [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas because now he is responsible for the government,” he told the New York Times. “We are not responsible.”

Cairo-based senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk said that the organization has already distributed $40 million in Gaza, $2,000 to each family whose home was damaged.

On Wednesday, reports in the Arab media indicated that Egypt was meeting with both the Israeli and Palestinian sides and was preparing to issue invitations to ceasefire negotiations in Cairo, but tensions between Hamas and Fatah over the payment of salaries to Hamas employees and administration of border crossings were delaying the talks.

These reports came a day after Fatah officials reportedly warned that if Hamas did not cede control of the Gaza Strip to the unity government, Abbas’s presidential guard forces would not deploy along the borders and the crossings would remain closed. Egypt has said repeatedly it would not open the Rafah border crossing as long as it was controlled by Hamas.

However, riding an unprecedented wave of popularity following its most recent violent conflict with Israel, Hamas’s leaders have sounded confident that it can maintain support from the people, and since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire went into effect, Hamas’s leaders have been working the streets to buoy that support.

AFP and Spencer Ho contributed to this report.

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