Gaza Hamas leader: Group doesn’t want war, but is readying its forces

Hamas chief in the Gaza Strip Yahiya Sinwar rarely speaks to the press, but he reportedly met with journalists in Gaza for two hours Monday.

Hamas members (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas members
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas is readying its forces for war with Israel even though it prefers one does not erupt, Yahiya Sinwar, leader of the terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, said on Monday.
Sinwar, who rarely speaks to the press, reportedly met with journalists in Gaza for two hours on Monday. In addition, he recently met with a group of Palestinian intellectuals.
“We do not want a war and we are undertaking all efforts to push it to the side so that our people can catch their breath,” Sinwar, who is seen as a hard-line Hamas leader, said according to al-Rai, a Hamas-run media service.
“But, at the same time, we are not afraid and are ready for one... We are accumulating our forces for liberation and return.”
Despite increased pressure to respond to Gaza’s dire humanitarian situation, a number of Hamas officials have said that the movement is not interested in renewed hostilities with Israel. Gaza has yet to recover from the 2014 war with Israel and, according to the United Nations, some 29,000 people still remain displaced.
Sinwar added that relations between Hamas and Iran “were and still are good,” and noted that Iran is now the largest sponsor – in weaponry and funding – of the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.
Iran has long supported Hamas but ties were believed to have soured when the Gazabased terror group refused to back Syrian President Bashar Assad after the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011.
A Hamas delegation led by three senior leaders, Salih al-Arouri, Ezzat al-Rishq and Osama Hamdan, visited Tehran in early August to celebrate the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s second term.
During its visit, the delegation met with senior Iranian officials including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
Sinwar also said that Hamas will not hold prisoner exchange talks with Israel until it frees 54 prisoners who were rearrested after they were released as part of the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap in 2011.
“We will not begin negotiations before the release of [the] 54 prisoners... We will not pay a price [for them] twice,” Sinwar stated.