Senior Fatah official justifies Oct. 7 massacre as ‘defensive war’ against Israel

Jibril Rajoub, secretary general of Fatah’s Central Committee, says Hamas terror group that carried out onslaught is part of Palestinian ‘political and social fabric’

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

Head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub after his speech at the FIFA congress in Moscow, June 13, 2018. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)
Head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub after his speech at the FIFA congress in Moscow, June 13, 2018. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Jibril Rajoub, secretary general of Fatah’s Central Committee, on Sunday justified the October 7 massacre by Hamas that killed over a thousand people in Israel, mostly civilians, as an act “in the context of the defensive war our people are waging.”

In a speech he delivered in a meeting with journalists in Kuwait, Rajoub also said that Israel is responsible for causing October 7, the worst single-day killing of Jewish people since the Holocaust, due to its “aggression on all the Palestinian lands.”

He said the Hamas onslaught “thwarted the goal of the Israeli right to integrate Israel into the region without resolving the Palestinian issue, based on the principle of peace in exchange for peace,” referencing the Abraham Accords that Israel signed in recent years with several Arab nations, and ongoing talks to normalize relations with other Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Rajoub, who is also head of the Palestinian Football Association, added in his speech that “Hamas is part of our political and social fabric and of our struggle, and their involvement is important,” but reiterated that the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people is the Palestinian Authority.

On October 7, Hamas launched a devastating cross-border attack with over 3,000 terrorists breaching the border from the Gaza Strip and rampaging through southern regions, overrunning communities and slaughtering those they found. The attackers murdered over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, butchering entire families as they huddled together in their homes, in some cases burning them alive. The terrorists raped and tortured victims, including children, mutilating some. Babies were beheaded and 360 people were killed at an outdoor music festival. In the attack, which came under the cover of thousands of rockets fired at Israel, the terrorists also abducted roughly 240 people of all ages and took them to Gaza.

Israel responded with an air, sea, and land military campaign. It has vowed, along with securing the release of the hostages, to destroy Hamas and remove it from power in Gaza, where the Islamist group — which openly seeks Israel’s destruction — has ruled since 2007 after seizing power from the PA, which is dominated by Fatah, in a coup. Hamas and Fatah have remained split ever since.

Israeli soldiers remove bodies of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, October 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

PA officials have so far refused to condemn Hamas’s October 7 massacre. The PA Foreign Ministry even went as far as to falsely claim on November 19 that Israel fabricated evidence of the October 7 killings by Hamas to justify its attack on Gaza – a statement that was later retracted after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as “preposterous.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah chairman, has repeatedly indicated that the PA is willing to take control over the Gaza Strip after Hamas is removed from power there — on condition of the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

US President Joe Biden has also said that a “revitalized” PA should rule the Gaza Strip following the war, something Israel has repeatedly rejected, pointing to its refusal to condemn the October 7 onslaught.

Israel has not yet given a clear idea of what it intends to do after destroying Hamas rule. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said the war could go on for months, and would include an intermediate stage during which the IDF will begin to seek out new leadership for the battered enclave while rooting out “pockets of resistance.” Only after this lower-intensity conflict, which is also expected to take several months, Gallant has said, will Israel transition to its final phase: disconnection from the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu said last week that the PA in its current form is “not fit” to control Gaza, noting that Abbas had yet to condemn the October 7 massacres, while some of his ministers “are celebrating what happened.”

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