Hamas: we’ll coexist with Jews, but not ‘occupiers’

Israel resumed its bombardment of the Gaza Strip for the 20th day on July 27, as Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal stressed that the group was ready to "coexist with the Jews" but would not tolerate "occupiers." The Israeli assault on Gaza continued after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to renew a ceasefire agreed to earlier in the day after he claimed Palestinian militants had violated earlier truces. At least two Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in Israeli airstrikes and shelling from land and sea that evening, as the total Palestinian toll in the deadly assault hit 1,032 with more than 6,200 injured. Israeli forces have also killed 11 Palestinians in solidarity protests across the West Bank.

Of the total, 13 Palestinians were killed the morning of July 27 by Israeli forces during the ceasefire, while 117 bodies were recovered the previous day as medics had access to areas that had been off-limits during the "humanitarian ceasefire" that lasted 16 hours.

On the afternoon of July 27, after the expiration of that ceasefire, Hamas announced that all militant groups would be respecting a 24-hour ceasefire beginning at 2 PM. But after Israeli airstrikes continued and officials announced their rejection, rocket fire resumed from the Gaza Strip, injuring one Israeli civilian.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military's death toll in the conflict hit 43 overnight, while three civilians in Israeli have been killed as well.

'I'm ready to coexist with the Jews'
Hamas continued to insist that any lasting ceasefire must be based on an Israeli lifting of the blockade on Gaza, with Meshaal warning that Palestinians cannot coexist with their neighbors while their land is occupied in an interview broadcast on July 27. Meshaal was interviewed the previous day by US broadcaster PBS in the Qatari capital Doha. Asked by interviewer Charlie Rose whether he could foresee living beside Israelis in peace, Meshaal said only a future Palestinian state could decide whether to recognize Israel.

"We are not fanatics, we are not fundamentalists. We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers," he said. "I'm ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs. However, I do not coexist with the occupiers."

Pressed on whether Palestinians could recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state, Meshaal reiterated Hamas' position—the group does not recognize Israel. "When we have a Palestinian state then the Palestinian state will decide on its policies," he said. "You cannot actually ask me about the future. I answered you. But Palestinian people can have their say when they have their own state without occupation."

From Ma'an News Agency, July 27

  1. Gaza death toll rises as Israel resumes bombardment

    At least 26 were killed and 241 injured across the Gaza Strip on July 28 as Israel resumed its bombardment of the Gaza Strip from air, land, and sea. The figures include 10 people who were killed in an Israeli air-strike that hit a children's playground in al-Shati refugee camp in the afternoon, where family outings to celebrate the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday ended in horror with eight children among the dead. A Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman said that over the last 21 days, a total of 1,088 Palestinians have been killed and 6,470 have been injured. Of the dead, 251 have been children and 50 have been elderly, while 1,980 children and 259 elderly have been among the injured. (Ma'an)

    US Secretary of State John Kerry said international efforts to agree a truce between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza must lead to the disarmament of Hamas. Kerry, who arrived back in Washington late July 27 after a week-long mission in the Middle East to try to stop the fighting, told reporters he was continuing to work "toward establishing an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire." Such a truce "could honor Eid which begins now and that will stop the fighting, allow desperately needed food and medicine and other supplies into Gaza and enable Israel to address the threat which we fully understand and which is real, the threat posed by tunnel attacks." (AFP)

    Outside the United Nations, some 10,000 gathered for a "New York Stands with Israel" rally, joined by the local Congressional delegation, led by Sen Chuck Schumer. The rally was organized by the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. There have been numerous smaller rallies against the Gaza bombardment in New York as well. (JTA, The Forward)

  2. Gaza death toll above 1,300 as Israel again strikes school

    Despite a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire that began at 3 PM, Israeli forces on July 30 afternoon shelled a market in Shujaiyya as well as number of homes across the Gaza Strip, killing at least 35 and sending the death toll from 23 days of unrelenting attacks above 1,300. (Ma'an) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned an Israeli strike on a Gaza school that morning that killed 16 people as "unjustifiable," and called for those responsible to be held to account. (AFP) An Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo to discuss with Egyptian officials a possible ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. (AFP

    The US Senate on July 29 passed a resolution agains expressing support for Israel’s right to "defend" itself from Hamas rocket attacks and condeming “bias” in the UN Human Right Council investigation of the Gaza campaign. S.Res. 526 was passed through a unanimous consent agreement. The resolution, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the majority leader, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), specifically condemned a Human Rights Council resolution last week calling for an inquiry into the conduct of the conflict. (The HillJTA)

    The US cast the sole no vote on the Human Rights Council resolution calling for the investigation. (UN News Centre)

  3. Gaza death toll surpasses that of Cast Lead

    The Palestinian death toll in the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza surpassed that of Operation Cast Lead on July 31 as the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli attacks hit 1,437. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 1,417 Palestinians were killed during Israel's infamous three-week offensive on Gaza in 2008-2009. Some 5,303 people were injured during Cast Lead, while at least 8,265 have been injured throughout Operation Protective Edge. (Ma'an)

    The US offered some criticism of the Israeli air-strike that killed 16 people at a UN school in Gaza. White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said all available evidence pointed to Israeli artillery and that the Israeli government had acknowledged its forces were firing in the area in response to Hamas fire.

    "So while we underscore the importance of a full and prompt investigation of this tragic incident, as well as a shelling of other UN facilities and schools that have been hit, it does not appear there's a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident," he said. "That is why we have continued to urge Israeli military officials to live up to their high standards that they have set for the protection of innocent civilians. There is clearly more that can and should be done to ensure the safety of innocent civilians."

    An estimated 3,300 civilians had taken shelter in the UN school in northern Gaza when it was hit July 30. "The shelling of a UN facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible," Earnest said.

    Ban had called the attack "reprehensible." (AFP)

    With more than 220,000 Palestinians already sheltering in UN facilities—four times the number from Cast Lead, UNRWA chief Philippe Krahenbuhl said, "I believe the population is facing a precipice and appeal to the international community to take the steps necessary to address this extreme situation." (AFP)

    Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire, US Secretary of State John Kerry said early July 31, with talks to ensue in Cairo. "During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place," Kerry said. He added that Israel will maintain "defensive" operations against tunnels. (AFP, AFP)

    The United States has meanwhile allowed Israel to tap a local US arms stockpile in the past week to resupply it with grenades and mortar rounds, an unnamed Pentagon official told Reuters. The munitions were located inside Israel as part of a program managed by the US military and called War Reserves Stock Allies-Israel (WRSA-I), which stores munitions locally for US use that Israel can also access in emergency situations. 

    Israel apparently did not cite an emergency when it made its latest request about 10 days ago, but was nonetheless allowed to access the stockpile's 40mm grenades and 120mm mortar rounds. (Reuters)

  4. Bibi: Israel to maintain ‘security control’ of West Bank

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Times of Israel July 11 that Israel must ensure that “we don’t get another Gaza in Judea and Samaria.” Amid the current conflict, he added, “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan."

  5. Israel shells Rafah during ‘ceasefire’

    Three Palestinians were wounded by Israeli artillery shelling east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, just two hours after a 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas came into effect. In the eastern Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinian civilians who attempted to reach their homes in areas near the border. (Ma'an)

  6. Israel and Hamas blame each other as truce breaks down

    An Israeli airstrike hit an ambulance and killed a paramedic Aug. 1 as Israel stepped up its bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip following the collapse of a ceasefire earlier in the day. The death of the paramedic brings to 16 the number of health workers who have been killed in Israeli strikes since the beginning of the assault 25 days ago. 

    At least 1,592 Gazans have been killed since the start of hostilities on July 8. Sixty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed, and Palestinian rockets have killed three civilians in Israel.

    Meanwhile, Israeli forces widened their assault across the Gaza Strip, launching further ground movements in Shujaiyya in eastern Gaza City, Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, and Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. The expansion of the invasion comes after Israel said one of its soldiers was captured during an attack on its military position east of Rafah inside the Gaza Strip. (Ma'an, Reuters)

    Both President Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded that the Israeli soldier be released immediately. (AFP, Haaretz) Israel and Hamas dispute the facts and blame each other for breaking the ceasefire. Hamas denies having any information about a captured solider. Israel says Hamas militants, including a suicide bomber, attacked IDF soldiers working to demolish tunnels in the Strip, killing two and apparently capturing a third. (EIMcClatchy)

    Israeli forces also opened fire at an ambulance as it was bringing injured Palestinians from a site of clashes near Nablus to a nearby hospital, medics told Ma'an News Agency. Amid clashes at the Huwarra checkpoint south of Nablus, Israeli forces shot and injured six Palestinians with live fire, medics said. (Ma'an)

  7. Gaza: yet a third school bombed by Israel

    Israel announced it would hold a seven-hour "humanitarian" ceasefire in most of Gaza Aug. 4, amid world outrage over another deadly strike on a UN school in the Palestinian territory. The strike on the school in Rafah killed at least 10 people who had taken refuge there, the third such incident in 10 days.

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attack on the school sheltering some 3,000 Palestinians who had fled their homes due to the fighting "a moral outrage and a criminal act." US State Department representative Jen Psaki said Washington was "appalled" by the attack and called for a "full and prompt" investigation.

    Over 1,800 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the July 8 start of hostilities. At least 53 Israeli soldiers have been killed by Hamas militants. The ceasefire is not to apply in the Rafah area. (AFPAl JazeeraIHS Jane's)

    Israel announced it was safe for residents of Gaza's north to return home Aug. 3—but seven Palestinians were killed in an airstrike on their home at Jabaliya in the northern Strip the following day.

    Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement that an Israeli airstrike that targeted a house killed seven people in Jabaliya. Seven Palestinians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on their home in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, a day after Israel said it was safe for residents of the north to return home.

    Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement that an Israeli airstrike that targeted a house killed seven people in Jabaliya. (Ma'an)

    Clashes continue in the West Bank. Israeli forces shot and seriously injured a Palestinian child during protests near Hebron on Aug. 3. The 11-year-old boy was shot in the chest with a live bullet, and remains in a coma.

    On Aug. 2, a funeral for a slain protester at the village of Rafat near Ramallah ended with a group of Palestinians spontaneously marching to the Apartheid Wall and demolishing a section of it. (Ma'an, ISM)

    An anti-war rally of several hundred in Tel Aviv's Habima Square was declared illegal and broken up by police Aug. 2, with 14 arrested. (Haaretz)

  8. Israel violates new ceasefire —again

    Palestinian factions and Israel agreed again to a 72-hour ceasefire Aug. 4, following talks in Egypt. The truce is to take effect the next morning. (Ma'an) But Israeli forces targeted a home in Gaza City early Aug. 4, killing a young girl and injuring dozens of Palestinians just minutes after a seven-hour "humanitarian ceasefire" came into effect. (Ma'an)

    Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian man who rammed an excavator into a bus in East Jerusalem Aug. 4, knocking the bus on its side and running another man over, medics and police said. The man who was run over by the excavator was killed as well. (Ma'an)

    Human Rights Watch issued a statement charing that Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza'a fired on and killed fleeing civilians in in several incidents between July 23 and 25. Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes, the statement emphasizes. (HRW)

  9. Israel to allow Gaza rebuilding in exchange for disarmament

    Israel is willing to agree to the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip in exchange for the disarmament of militant groups there, an official said Aug. 5. Ofer Gendelman told Ma’an that the Israeli government linked the rebuilding of Gaza with disarming factions in the coastal enclave. Gendelman said that Israel was interested in achieving a lasting ceasefire, but he insisted that it was dependent on Hamas' respect of the current 72-hour truce. Israel has withdrawn its troops from the coastal enclave.

    The Israeli assault has caused severe damage to the infrastructure in Gaza. Over 10,000 houses, government buildings, universities, mosques, and schools were damaged in a month-long assault.

    Also Aug. 5, three remaining members of a Palestinian delegation negotiating a longer-term truce in Gaza were on their way to Cairo after entering Egypt through the Rafah crossing, state media reported. The three Palestinian leaders who entered Egypt were Islamic Jihad member Khaled al-Batsh and senior Hamas officials Khalil al-Haya and Emad El-Elmy, said the official MENA news agency. A joint Palestinian delegation representing President Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Islamic Jihad has been in Cairo for the past few days at Egypt's invitation. Israel earlier refused to send its negotiators, but an official said that a team representing it is on its way to Cairo.

    The main demands proposed to Egyptian mediators by the Palestinian delegation are a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, the end of the siege of the enclave, and opening its border crossings. They have also demanded fishing rights up to 12 nautical miles off Gaza's coast and the release of Palestinian prisoners demanded by Hamas and Abbas. Egyptian mediators are to forward these demands to the Israelis.

    Israel's assault on Gaza has killed over 1,800 Palestinians and injured at least 9,000. Gaza's deputy economy minister Taysir Amro said that the assault has caused at least $4-6 billion in damages. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed and three Israeli civilians. The majority of those killed in Gaza are civilians, according to UN agencies. (Ma'an)

  10. Gaza bombardment resumes amid West Bank unrest

    A three-day truce collapsed Aug. 8 as Gaza militants resumed rocket attacks on Israel, drawing a wave of air-strikes that killed at least five Palestinians, including three children. One air-strike near a mosque in Gaza that killed a 10-year-old boy. (AP, WP) Israel did not provide a clear response to the Palestinian ceasefire conditions, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said as truce talks stalled in Cairo. "Israeli stubbornness led to not extending the ceasefire." (Ma'an) A Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces on Friday afternoon during clashes at Jabal al-Tawil near Ramallah, following a protest close to the Jewish settlement of Psagot. (Ma'an) At least 40 were injured in central Hebron as Israeli forces dispersed hundreds taking part in rallies against the Gaza bombardment. (Ma'an)

  11. New ceasefire in Gaza, West Bank clashes continue

    A 72-hour ceasefire brokered by Egypt went into effect Aug. 11, hours after Israeli bombings killed four Palestinians and armed groups fired rockets toward Israel. (Ma'an) A 12-year old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli soldiers while playing in front of his home in al-Fawwar refugee camp south of Hebron. The soldiers were apparently responding to stone-throwing youth nearby. (Ma'an)

  12. Limited breakthrough in Gaza ceasefire negotiations

    Ongoing ceasefire talks are slowly beginning to take shape, sources in Cairo told Ma'an New Agency, although several outstanding issues need to be finalized to produce a permanent agreement. Palestinian sources close to the talks said that six points have been agreed upon while a further five need to be resolved.

    Israel has agreed to increase the daily number of truckloads of goods to Gaza from 250 to 600 via the Kerem Shalom and Nahal Oz crossings, the sources said. Israel has also agreed to allow money transfers from the Palestinian Authority to Gaza to cover the salaries of former Hamas civil servants. The designated fishing zone will also be gradually expanded to 12 nautical miles and some 500 permits will be issued monthly to allow Gazans to use the Erez crossing.

    Egypt has agreed to open the Rafah crossing in coordination with PA presidential guards, who would form a 1000-strong presence on the crossing and borders with Gaza. (Ma'an)

    Israeli warships on Aug. 12 reportedly opened fire at fishermen off the coast of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in an apparent violation of an agreed-upon three-day ceasefire. Nizar Ayyash, spokesman for Gaza's fishermen union, told Ma'an that a number of Palestinian fishermen were near the shore when Israeli forces shot at them with machine guns. No injuries were reported.

    Ayyash said Israeli naval forces had been preventing fishermen from fishing in the area, even within the "authorized fishing zone." An Israeli army spokeswoman said a Palestinian motorboat in the area had "breached the naval military closure," and that Israeli naval soldiers "fired warning shots into the air." (Ma'an)

    The British government will suspend 12 arms contracts to Israel, if there is a "resumption of significant hostilities," Business Secretary Vince Cable announced Aug. 12. A statement from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said that the agency had identified 12 arms export licenses that included the sale of equipment used by the Israeli army in Gaza. The licenses relate to military equipment including "components for military radar systems, combat aircraft and tanks." (Middle East Eye)

  13. Gaza’s historic mosque damaged in bombardment

    NPR's All Things Considered runs a powerful story on the Omari mosque in the Jabaliya area near Gaza City, which was badly damaged in Israel's bombardment. The mosque has stood on the site for 13 centuries. Historians reckon the oldest part of the current structure is the minaret, which is estimated to be around 700 years old. It survived the Israeli attack. But a new, modern wing of the building was flattened. Eldery local resident Jowdet al-Najjar showed reporters around the ruins, where the mosque's korans were reduced to "a pile of ripped-up pages of Arabic calligraphy." 

    The most tellingly ironic passage: "Hamas didn't actually care much for traditions surrounding this mosque. Najjar, the old man, says the group's conservative brand of Islam frowned on gatherings each year at a shrine next door, where people lit candles and feasted to mark the Prophet Muhammad's birthday." Way to go, Israel.

    Israel says Hamas store rockets in and launch attacks from the mosques. The men at Omari deny it and say that they have now lost the center of their community. Israeli air-strikes have destroyed 43 mosques and damaged 132 more, according to Hamas.

  14. Gaza ceasefire falls apart in final hours

    Three rockets from Gaza reportedly hit the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on Aug. 13 as the midnight end of a three-day ceasefire loomed with no breakthrough in negotiations in Cairo in sight. Soon after the three rockets hit Israel, an explosion was heard in Gaza. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, however, denied that the group had fired any rockets. (Ma'an)

  15. Hamas ‘terror anthem’ a hit in Israel… Huh?

    An utterly absurd story from Public Radio International about how a music video Hamas produced to strike fear in the Israelis is actually being eagerly eaten up by them…

    The song, "Carry Out Terror Attacks," is actually a remake of a Hamas oldie named "Shake Israel’s Security." It came out in 2012 during the last war in Gaza. It was a big hit among Hamas supporters and garnered more than a million views on YouTube.

    So when war broke out last month, Hamas released a updated version for the Israeli enemy. The video features masked militants, rockets and lyrics that are essentially battle cries — translated into Hebrew this time: “Try to make contact with the Zionists. Burn camps and soldiers. Shake the security of Israel.”

    Israelis love it…

    [T]he Hamas single has improbably become Israel’s number-one summer hit. Israelis recorded a whole compilation of ironic covers, from a pensive piano version to a dance mashup to finger-snapping a capella.

    [Israeli military historian Yagil] Henkin says he was at a religious Jewish wedding the other day where the band played a Hasidic klezmer rendition.

    Almost heartwarming, in a perverse kind of way…

  16. New Gaza truce holding after shaky start

    Israel and Gaza fighters were holding their fire Aug. 14 after a new truce got off to a shaky start, with night-time rocket fire followed by Israeli air strikes. (AFP)