Mashaal praised the terrorists who carried out the attack as “a heroic operation,” one that had united Palestinian Authority Arabs “in a way that they had not been in the past.”
He added his voice to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s, however, in appealing for a ceasefire, while at the same time insisting on the terrorist group’s right to continue to carry out kidnappings and terrorist attacks.
“It is an expression of our aspirations,” he said. “In essence, the Palestinian people are saying: I fight, therefore I am.”
Mashaal also maintained that Hamas would not return Shalit without extracting a price from Israel, insisting the government free terrorist prisoners in exchange. “Our people are united on the insistence to swap the captured soldier with prisoners in the jails of the Zionist enemy,” he said. “It’s impossible to release the soldier without getting something in return. This would be humiliating for the Palestinians.”
Despite criticism by the European Union and the United Nations of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns made it clear on Sunday that the Bush administration had no complaints.
“Let’s remember who started this,” said Burns in an interview with the CNN news network. “It was the outrageous actions of Hamas in violating Israel’s sovereignty in taking the soldier hostage.”