Mashaal 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
In June 2006, Hamas kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit because Israel refused to open the border crossing to the Gaza Strip, and now that Israel is refusing to release Palestinians in Israeli jails as part of a prisoner swap deal, the organization may have to resort to more kidnappings in order to get what it wants, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told an Australian paper in a report published on Friday.
"The Israelis just don't learn. When they refuse to release Palestinians, it forces the Palestinians to resort to other means to gain their release - and inevitably this includes the capture of more Israeli soldiers," Mashaal said during an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
When asked if he relates to the sentiment expressed by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who was quoted as saying that had he known the extent to which Israel would retaliate in 2006, he would never have ordered the kidnapping of IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, Mashaal said that his group had no choice but to act, despite the destruction caused two years later by Operation Cast Lead.
"The 2006 captures were an option, a choice for Hizbullah, so they are entitled to assess the validity of what they did in terms of the consequences for Lebanon," he told the paper. "But for the Palestinians, Gaza wasn't a question of choice.
"Israel was supposed to end the siege and open the border crossings in return for a halt to the rockets; the rockets stopped, but the siege remained and the crossings stayed closed," Mashaal said. "It's unfair to ask Palestinians if they want to die slowly under siege or quickly under fire."
Palestinian rocket fire has plagued the South for over eight years, with thousands of projectiles fired into Israeli communities and cities throughout the western Negev causing billions of shekels in damage, and wounded and killing scores of civilians. Following the kidnapping in 2006, Israel severely restricted the flow of goods into the Gaza Strip, opening the borders intermittently to allow for the transport of essential supplies. A deal struck in July 2007 with Hamas which aimed to open the border permanently in return for a halt to rocket fire and progress in negotiations for a prisoner swap collapsed under continued Palestinian attacks on the western Negev.
Following Operation Cast Lead, and with the end of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's term only days away, efforts to secure the release of Gilad Schalit have intensified. However, on Tuesday the talks reached an impasse, with both sides accusing the other of having sabotaged negotiations through refusal to compromise