"If war breaks out, it will not only damage Gaza, but the entire region. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the entire Arab nation. We in Hamas don't want war; we've had enough of the heinous crimes that have befallen Gaza, as documented in the Goldstone Report, but if (war) is forced on us, we will resist the Zionist aggression as we did in the past," Mashaal told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat.
In the interview, published Friday, the exiled Hamas leader said, "Israel is not a source of peace and calm in the region. It sends war signals to Gaza and Lebanon, and is even turning Syria against Iran. All of this is caused by (Israel's) extremist leadership, led by (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu, (Defense Minister Ehud) Barak and (Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman.
"I hope that the Arab and Palestinian message to Israel will clearly state that war, such as the one that erupted in Gaza, is unacceptable," he said.
Mashaal, who lives in Damascus, reiterated the call for Palestinian reconciliation and a "cohesive Arab strategy", saying "Palestinian divisiveness and Arab weakness nurture extremism and obstinacy in Israel."
Addressing the recent assassination of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Mashaal said, "The Zionist enemy, through its Mossad agents, was behind this crime."