Hamas deputy anticipates Israeli hostages will be swapped for Palestinian prisoners

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri. (YouTube screenshot)
Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri. (YouTube screenshot)

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, calls the terror group’s onslaught against Israel an “open battle” aimed at achieving the liberation of the Palestinian people and their holy places, following the perceived “desecration” of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem — known as the Al-Aqsa compound to Muslims — by Jewish worshipers over the holiday of Sukkot.

Al-Arouri alleges plans by Israel to impose an unspecified “new reality” at the flashpoint site after the holiday. Hamas has repeatedly accused Israel of seeking to alter the sensitive status quo at the holy site as a pretext for violence.

Al-Arouri adds that Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails are “about to be freed,” anticipating the liberation of security prisoners in exchange for dozens of Israeli hostages the group has reportedly taken, including both civilians and soldiers.

Al-Arouri says some of the Israeli hostages are “senior officers.” He falsely says Hamas does not kill or harm civilians, claiming that there are videos showing how the terror group treats civilians “humanely.” Hamas terrorists slaughtered civilians in southern Israel today, took others captive, and fired hundreds of rockets at civilian population centers.

“We have a plan for all stages of this conflict,” al-Arouri says, “both in case of an Israeli request for a ceasefire, and in case of a continuing escalation of the violence. We are prepared for all options.” He adds that an Israeli ground invasion would be the “best scenario” for Hamas.

Al-Arouri also expresses his “hope and trust” that Palestinians outside Gaza will join the fight “to defend Al-Aqsa,” especially terror groups in the West Bank. Al-Arouri is considered the de facto leader of Hamas in the West Bank.

“We entered this battle not just for a few hours. We entered it knowing that there will be consequences, and we have no choice but to fight it to achieve our high goals,” he says.

He adds that Hamas is in communication with international and regional parties, and implies that it has received offers for mediation. He also accuses the US of providing financial and military aid to Ukraine but neglecting Palestinians.

Al-Arouri touches on the possible participation of Hezbollah in the attack on Israel, saying Israel is right to fear violence on the Lebanese front in the north, claiming that Israel occupies part of Lebanon’s territory.

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