Photo: Agence France-Presse Hamas “does not demand, through this document or otherwise, the exclusivity of the leadership of the Palestinian people,” assures Bassem Naim, senior official of the movement. But “he calls for the reorganization” of the Palestinian entity and “the reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)”, “so that it is representative of all”. Pictured is debris in Rafah on Thursday in the southern Gaza Strip.
Callum Paton – Agence France-Presse to Doha
- Middle East
Hamas' release of a lengthy document in multiple languages justifying its October 7 attack on Israel shows the Palestinian Islamist movement's desire to play a key political role in the postwar era, an official and analysts say.
In a careful text of nearly 20 pages, published Sunday in Arabic, English and French, the movement said it wanted to deliver “its version of the facts”. For Bassem Naim, senior Hamas official, the group seeks to maintain a say in the future of the Gaza Strip, where it took power in 2007.
“The movement does not demand, through this document or otherwise, the exclusivity of the leadership of the Palestinian people,” he assures AFP.
But “he calls for the reorganization” of the Palestinian entity and “the reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)”, founded in 1964, “so that it is representative of all”, adds the senior Hamas executive, former Minister of Health in Gaza.
Hamas, an organization classified as terrorist by the United States, Israel, Canada and the European Union, has never been part of the PLO, which remains dominated by Fatah, the president's movement of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
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The power exercised by Hamas in Gaza and the “resistance [of the movement] to the Zionist project […] qualify it to be at the head of the Palestinian people”, however, believes Mr. Naim.
“No party wishing to find a solution to this conflict can ignore Hamas,” continues the official, also director of international relations for the Islamist movement.
The war between Israel and Hamas was triggered by a bloody and unprecedented attack perpetrated by the Palestinian Islamist movement on October 7 on Israeli soil from the Gaza Strip.
The attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people on the Israeli side, the majority civilians killed on October 7, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli figures.< /p>
Since October 7, 25,900 Palestinians, the vast majority women, children and adolescents, have been killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli bombings and military operations launched in retaliation, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
While seeking to refute what the movement calls “allegations fabricated by Israel,” Hamas acknowledges in its document “mistakes” made on October 7, notably towards civilians, while Israeli officials claimed that Palestinian fighters had carried out rapes.
The group also calls for an international investigation into the Israeli occupation, asking the United States and European countries to support proceedings before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Aymenn Al-Tamimi, an expert at the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, told AFP that by appealing to an international audience, Hamas seeks to refute comparisons, such as those made by Israel with jihadist organizations like the Islamic State armed group, perpetrator of atrocities in Syria and Iraq a few years ago.
“They are trying to push back the idea that they are like jihadist groups,” he assures. Hamas “clearly stands out […] by its way of expressing itself,” adds Mr. Tamimi.
“Strengthened” international position
“On the international level,” Hamas “has been able to strengthen its position” since October 7, maintains Andreas Krieg, security expert at King’s College in London.
And “it is easier to argue for a Palestinian state with more support”, especially “in the global south”, but also “in the liberal north of the West”, he continues.
Last week, Mexico and Chile joined South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros and Djibouti in calling for an International Court of Justice (ICJ) investigation into the war .
In an apparent appeal to the South, the Hamas document invites “nations that have been colonized and are aware of the suffering of the Palestinian people to take serious and effective positions against the Israeli occupation.” .
The Palestinian movement “will not be defeated and will not be eradicated from Gaza,” assures Hugh Lovatt, researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
“Any initiative to stabilize Gaza, any return of a revitalized Palestinian Authority will probably have to be accepted to some extent by Hamas itself,” he explains.
But, adds the researcher, “if the movement wants to explain why it should not be treated like the pariah it deserves to be since October 7, it must begin to expose […] its strategy policy. This document does not.”