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Meshaal: No truce without lifting the siege of Gaza

Head of Hamas's political bureau Khalid Meshaal announced on Wednesday that his movement would not accept any ceasefire proposal that does not include lifting the eight-year-long siege that Israel has imposed on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Anadolu news agency reported.

Addressing a press conference held in Doha, the news agency quoted Meshaal as saying: "We will not accept any proposals that ignore the demands of the resistance, including lifting the siege. However, we will accept a humanitarian truce for the relief of the people."

He continued: "They are talking about disarming the resistance, but I say: We will not disarm unless Israel disarms and the occupation and settlements have ended." He reiterated that there is a national consensus on the demands of the resistance, which are the demands of the Palestinian people.

"In the current stage, an immediate lifting of Israel's siege and ending of Israel's war is needed," he said. "Only then will we accept a ceasefire." He added that some are betting that the resistance will lose patience, "but I say: Our patience is endless."

Regarding the international response to Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip, including the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Ramallah, he said: "It is his right to visit Ramallah, but I call upon him to visit Gaza, where the field decisions are being made." He also called for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to visit the Gaza Strip to console the people there.

The Hamas leader said that the Palestinian resistance does not feel sensitive in dealing with any of the parties, including the Egyptians, but he stressed that the resistance will not concede the demands of the Palestinians, including lifting the siege. "We are a free movement that respects all Arabs, but we do not allow anyone to impose conditions on us," he said.

Meshaal noted that his movement had communicated the ceasefire demands to Turkey, Qatar, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, and they passed them to the US. He added that his movement heard about the Egyptian initiative from mass media, and after the Qatari-Turkish proposal.

He said that Hamas did not initiate the call for a truce, but the US and Israel sought mediating one through Turkey and Qatar. "Then, we started to hear about other ceasefire initiatives," referring to the Egyptian one. He explained that the resistance was neither sleeping nor busy trading; indeed, continuously facing the Israeli aggression proved that it was fully engaged in protecting the people and preparing for this confrontation.

Responding to the PLO's call for a meeting of the interim Palestinian leadership in Cairo, Meshaal said: "We heard about it through mass media. We did not receive any official invitation to attend the meeting."

He refused to describe Israeli settlers as "civilians", pointing out that: "They are staying on a land that is not theirs. They kill and burn Palestinian civilians."

He told reporters that the Palestinians did not start this war; it was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who started the aggression because of his inability to face his opposition, such as his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Since the beginning of Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip more than two weeks ago, Israeli occupation forces have killed 725 Palestinians, including 175 children, 83 women and 42 elderly. Israel also wounded 4,519, including 1,239 children, 717 women and 167 elderly.

Israel has recognised that 32 soldiers were killed during direct clashes with the Palestinian resistance in different places along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip.

Gaza is has been under a strict Israeli siege since 2006, when Hamas swept the Palestinian parliamentary and municipal elections. The world's major powers and some Arab countries are complicit in this aggressive siege, which is widely considered illegal under international law.

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