In an interview, Hamas official Khaled Mashal said the terror group is “well aware of the consequences” of its brutal October 7 attack on Israel, insisted his group — which massacred some 1,000 civilians in the assault — does not target non-combatants, and said Palestinians will need to sacrifice lives in order to “liberate” themselves from Israel.
Mashal, the former political leader of Hamas and still a senior leader in the terror organization, made the comments in an often combative interview on Wednesday with the Saudi-based Al-Arabiya news network.
Host Rasha Nabil asked Mashal if he could continue to fly the flag of “resistance” to Israel as the world watched “Hamas transgressions against Israeli civilians” throughout southern Israeli communities.
“You are now being compared to Islamic State,” she noted.
Mashal responded, “This is an accusation fabricated by [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and unfortunately the West is collaborating with it.”
He celebrated the “ingenious” attack which he said was “in the context of legitimate resistance.”
He claimed falsely that Hamas “focuses its resistance on the occupation forces, on the soldiers,” while saying that in all wars there are some civilian victims. “We are not responsible for them.”
Asked if he wanted to apologize for civilian deaths in the attacks, he said: “Apologies should be demanded from Israel. Hamas does not kill civilians on purpose. It focuses on the soldiers. Period.”
Marauding Hamas gunmen swept through communities near the Strip on October 7, slaughtering men, women and children of all ages in their homes and at a large outdoor party in scenes that have horrified Israel and the world, and which Israel’s leaders have compared to the atrocities committed by the Nazis.
Victims were shot, stabbed, tortured, raped and burned alive. Some 1,400 Israelis have been confirmed dead, with around 1,000 believed to have been unarmed civilians. The process of identifying the dead continues. Another 200 people, at least, were abducted into Gaza, some alive and some dead, many of them civilians.
Asked if he and his group had not brought pointless, wanton destruction upon innocents on both sides of the border, Mashal said: “We know very well the consequences of our operation on October 7.”
“Nations are not easily liberated,” he said, going on to note millions of deaths in Russia during World War II, in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, in Afghanistan over decades of wars against the Soviets and the Americans. “The Palestinian nation is just like any other nation. No nation is liberated without sacrifices.”
“Israel will kill us, whether we resist it or not,” he added.
Mashaal espoused a vision of a crumbling Israeli state (though the country appears to have come together more than ever before in the face of adversity).
“Israel has weakened, soldiers refused to serve. This army is not what it once was,” he said. “This entity is defeated, its strategy has collapsed… our people know how to be patient.”
Though Israel has so far shown little appetite for negotiating with the group over hostages as it pounds Hamas targets in Gaza and prepares for a major ground offensive, Mashal voiced his belief that Hamas held enough Israelis to secure the release of all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
He also claimed Hamas was ready to hand over civilian hostages, and only intended to bargain over captured security personnel.
Mashal rejected calls to evacuate northern Gaza or for Gazans to seek refuge outside the territory at all. “We refuse to leave Gaza. The displacement of the people of Gaza, if it occurs, will harm Egypt and Jordan,” he said.
Asked where Palestinian civilians should go if Israel invades, Mashal said “Allah will protect them.”
He also said Hamas was extending its hand to West Bank-based Fatah and all Palestinian factions to achieve cohesion in order to confront Israel.
As for criticism of Hamas leaders enjoying comfortable life abroad as Gazans suffer (Mashal has not lived in the Strip for decades, and currently resides in Qatar), Mashal said: “We are in the middle of the battlefield. Nobody is sitting this one out. The Hamas leaders in Gaza and abroad are running this war together.”