BEIRUT: None of the Palestinian factions want to draw Lebanon into the current Gaza conflict, a senior Hamas official told The Daily Star Wednesday, following a number of rocket attacks aimed at Israel over the past week.
“We believe that resistance in Palestine is effective, and our policy is not to create more troubles for the Arab countries surrounding Palestine,” said Osama Hamdan, a member of Hamas politburo and the party’s chief representative in Lebanon.
“No one is trying to drag Lebanon into the troubles.”
The 460,000 Palestinian refugees living in camps across Lebanon would also suffer if Israel attacked the country, he added.
However, Hamdan declined to denounce the recent spate of rockets launched from south Lebanon toward Israel.
“We can’t criticize, as a resistance movement, any type of resistance against occupation,” Hamdan said in a phone interview.
On four separate occasions over the past week, individuals in south Lebanon have launched approximately 10 rockets toward Israel. No casualties have been reported. A Lebanese man and two Palestinians have been arrested in connection with the incidents.
“If it was done by Palestinians, and they did it for their brothers in Gaza, I believe ... they feel they have to do something,” Hamdan said.
But he cautioned that other armed factions may be using the opportunity to sow unrest along the Lebanon-Israel border to “undermine support for the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon.”
Despite a public rift that has erupted between Hezbollah and Hamas in recent months over the war in Syria, Hamdan insisted the two parties were still allies.
While distance prevented Hezbollah and Hamas from taking “direct action” together in Gaza, according to Hamdan the Lebanese party remained a steadfast partner of the Palestinian cause. “We resist the same occupation ... we are both fighting the same enemy.”
Hamdan lamented the civilian casualties in Gaza, particularly the 38 children killed. “Three days ago, high school results ... were released by the Palestinian Authorities. The [students with] the first and second highest grades in Gaza were killed with their families. They didn’t even know the results of their exams. This is the situation,” he said.
Israeli naval rockets killed four young boys Wednesday while they were playing on a Gaza beach, bringing the death toll to over 200.
“Those were people who have their own lives, and they have the right to live their own lives, They were prevented from doing that by the Israelis,” he said.
While he admitted Palestinian civilians were paying a heavy toll for the violence, Hamdan said he was hopeful the rockets launched by Hamas would serve as a deterrent for future Israeli operations in Gaza. “The cost is heavy ... but I believe if that brings a stop to Israeli attacks on Palestinians for the long term, it will be a good result.”
Hamas has launched nearly 1,000 rockets at Israel over the past nine days. While some have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, many have hit Israel. There has only been one casualty so far, however. “The missiles which have hit [Israel] in recent days will make [Israel] think more and more before launching any new attacks against the Palestinians.”
When asked about the the cease-fire proposal put forward by the Egyptian government Monday, he called it “not acceptable” and one-sided. He repeatedly referred to the cease-fire as having been “offered through the media,” pointing to reports that Hamas was not consulted on the deal.
“The Egyptian government needs to show they are not allies with Israel, that they are real mediators.”
If Egypt is able to convince Hamas of their neutrality, “no one would oppose their mediation.”
Hamdan also praised the efforts of the Qatari and Turkish governments, saying that both had showed even-handedness in mediation efforts thus far.
“The mediator is supposed to be neutral and is not supposed to put pressure on one side at the expense of the other ... It’s clear that the Qataris and the Turkish governments have done their best and they are still working in this direction.”