The political chief of Hamas has called on President Barack Obama to intervene with the Israeli government to "lift the siege" of Gaza and push for a cease-fire in the conflict to stop a "holocaust" against the Palestinians.
"You as the leader of the most powerful state in the world, I ask you to call [on] Israel to stop its aggression on Gaza – and to lift the siege and open the cross borders and to rebuild Gaza," said Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, in an exclusive interview with Yahoo News. "This is our demands."
The direct appeal to the president was made – in English – at the end of a wide-ranging hourlong interview, conducted under tight security at a gated Hamas media office in Doha, Qatar. It came amid a new round of violence in the Gaza conflict, including thedeath of a 4-year-old Israeli child on a kibbutz from a Hamas rocket and the execution of 26 suspected "collaborators" by masked Hamas gunmen.
In the interview, in which he answered all other questions in Arabic, Mashaal was at times defiant, comparing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at one point to Adolf Hitler.
"What is the difference between what Netanyahu, [Defense Minister Moshe] Yaalon, and [Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny] Gantz are doing — killing thousands of civilians, children, women, entire neighborhoods, targeting mosques, destroying hospitals and [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] schools — what's the difference between that and what the Nazis did in the 1930s and '40s? And what Hitler did. This is the real holocaust."
But he also said Hamas is "ready for a cease-fire" and is willing to stop its rocket attacks, though he insisted that Obama has a "moral responsibility" to pressure the Israelis to stop the conflict in Gaza. "This is an opportunity for me to send a message to the American people, to President Obama, and to the U.S. Congress: America has to act in a moral way," he said. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment.