Hamas leader promises to 'pummel Israel' if conflict arises
At a briefing for reporters, Hamas Leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar says 'Hamas is not aiming for a confrontation' but warns Israel against 'stupid measures': 'We have the ability to respond,' adds Sinwar, stating that Hamas's current strength surpasses its power during Protective Edge.
Six months after taking over as Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar sent a threatening message to Israel during a press briefing on Tuesday, saying that while Hamas is not looking to start a war, it will "pummel" Israel if necessary.. "Hamas is not seeking a confrontation, but if such a confrontation should arise, Hamas will pummel Israel," said Sinwar.
Sinwar, whose voice has not been heard many times since his appointment as Ismail Haniya's replacement last February, warned Israel against "taking stupid steps against the Gaza Strip" and claimed that "the Palestinian resistance has the ability to respond to that."
Sinwar also made it clear that Hamas was prepared for a confrontation and claimed that the organization's strength was greater than it was during Operation Protective Edge. "Israel is not launching a new war against Gaza, which stresses its fear of the unknown that awaits it in Gaza."
During the main part of his speech, Sinwar referred to the dismantling of the Gaza Strip's administrative committee, which serves as a kind of shadow government opposing the ruling of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is looking to dismantle it. Sinwar said that dismantling the committee was the easiest decision Hamas could make, but that his organization is convinced that this will bring them back to the power vacuum that existed before.
At present, Abbas is exerting severe sanctions on Gaza's leadership and civilian population, in an effort to have it turn over control to the Palestinian Authority. Speaking to journalists, Sinwar stated that Hamas leadership would be willing to its dissolve the administrative committee if Abbas would genuinely move toward a reconciliation.
Referring to the Palestinian desire to declare their independence, Sinwar mentioned to his organization's contacts with deposed senior Palestinian figure Mohammad Dahlan—who, like Abbas, is also from the Fatah party—saying that there joint efforts of both sides to promote the "national project."
As for relations with Egypt, Sinwar said that the Egyptian government had committed itself to opening the Rafah crossing for goods and passengers after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. He noted that relations with Egypt were great and that Hamas had managed to achieve many breakthroughs in talks with its neighbor to the south. He also mentioned "there is talk about improving the electricity situation" in Gaza, which under Abbas's sanctions receives only 3 – 4 hours a day.
The most senior figure to be released in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, Sinwar was the liaison between Hamas's military wing and political wing before his appointment to be Hamas's leader in Gaza.