WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Hamas’ political leader, Khaled Meshaal, compared the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation in Gaza to that of the American Revolution against the British, and French resistance to the Nazis.
Speaking with CNN’s Nic Robertson on Sunday, the 58-year-old former teacher – who lives in Qatar – has played the role of Hamas’ external deal-maker and fundraiser since an Israeli airstrike killed former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in 2004. Meshaal denied that Hamas uses civilians as human shields and said it’s “unfortunate” that the Obama administration has adopted this “lie” from the “Israeli narrative.”
Meshaal said that the militant wing of Hamas will abide by the cease-fire but has the right to defend itself amid ongoing “aggression” seen in Israel’s destruction of tunnels inside Gaza territories. “The Palestinian resistance has the right to self-defense and the right to deal with the invading Israeli forces who are inside our Gaza territories with necessary means.”
Robertson and Meshaal then turned to the use of rockets being launched to and from civilian locations:
ROBERTSON: “Are you ready to stop building rockets? Are you ready to stop firing rockets?”
MESHAAL: “I will answer you. I will answer you. Why are there demands only on the Palestinian people to get rid of their modest and simple weapons but no similar demands on Israel, the occupying state? We are ready to discuss the removal of weapons.”
ROBERTSON: “But the Israelis say you’re firing them indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. That’s what you are using those weapons for. When they’re not firing at you, you’re firing at them.”
MESHAAL: “Israel is the one who started the aggression, and it is Israel who is killing civilians. I explained to you in details what Israel is doing in Gaza in killing civilians.”
Robertson pushed Mesaal on the launching of rockets from civilian neighborhoods, saying “that’s what you’re doing. Why do you do it when you know civilians are going to die?”
Meshaal responded, “How many Israeli civilian rockets did our kill? Israel knows the number. Meanwhile, how many Palestinian civilians has Israel killed? Up until now it killed 1,700 people, while we killed, by Israel’s own admission, 63 soldiers. We killed soldiers, combatants while they kill civilians.”
When asked if he believes Hamas is “winning” in Gaza, Meshaal explained that their victory is “steadfastness” against the greater military power from Israel.
Meshaal reiterated Hamas’ role as an “institutional movement,” adding that his leadership can be effective even with his distance in Qatar.
“Hamas is an institutional movement. It has a respected leadership. And all the members of Hamas, whether in the political or armed wing, are disciplined. The Israelis, the Egyptians and the U.S. administration know this. Otherwise John Kerry would not have intervened.”
Meshaal said that the “steadfastness” of their fight is itself a victory, arguing that Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians as Hamas only targets soldiers supports their cause against Israeli occupation, comparing it to other major historical resistance movements.
“Our people are convinced today that the only way to get rid of the occupation and establish their state is through resistance like all of the people of the world have done — just like what the American people did when they got rid of the British occupation. And as the French did when they got rid of the Nazi occupation.”