Khaled Mashaal
Khaled Mashaal Reuters

Hamas is not behind Wednesday’s terror attack on a bus in Tel Aviv, the terror group’s leader claimed in an interview with CNN. Gaza Arabs celebrated the attack after it took place, and Hamas officials said it was carried out in revenge for Israeli aerial bombings in Gaza that killed several members of one family.

“Hamas is not claiming responsibility, not announced (sic) that it did this operation,” Khaled Mashaal told Christiane Amanpour in an interview from Cairo. “But I tell you, this operation is part of the massive ramifications that - and there will be more as a reaction, an angry reaction from our angry Palestinian people because of the aggression...Whoever does aggression must pay the price, anywhere in the world, not just from Hamas.”

Asked whether he believes it is useful to kill civilians inside Israel, Mashaal responded by claiming his group does not target civilians and blaming Israel for the latest round of violence.

“Let me give you the truth. On the 8th of November, this month, the Israelis entered Gaza and killed a child, a Palestinian child. The resistance responded. Then the Egyptians interfered and tried, as you know, to create the truce,” he said.

“One day after the truce last week, the Israelis killed Ahmed al-Jaabari, when he was coming from Hajj, from Saudi Arabia,” he claimed. “The Israelis escalated the utmost fear in Gaza. So they bear the responsibility. We don't target the civilians. I don't like to shed any drop of blood.

“We must go back to the origin of the issue,” said the terror leader. “The Palestinian people were living in peace and security, then the Israelis occupied the land. According to international law, and according to the Divine laws, the Americans and all the peoples, every people, when they are -- when they are occupied, they resist with all that they have.

“The Israelis -- Israel says it's a state and they have an army, and they call it the army of defense, and they have advanced weapons. They have committed massacres…” claimed Mashaal.

He said that Palestinian Authority Arabs are not being killed because of Hamas’s terrorist actions but that “we are defending our people and our land. Let me tell you. I say to you, I'm the leader of Hamas. I tell you, through CNN, to the whole world, we are ready to resort to a peaceful way, truly peaceful way, without blood and weapon, as long as we attain our Palestinian demands.”

Mashaal claimed that former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat gave an opportunity to Israel and to the international community to end the decades-old conflict but “the Israelis killed Yasser Arafat. Mahmoud Abbas, whom the world welcomed, he gave this opportunity to Israel and to the international community. What did they do? They made him fail. They let him down.

“Today, Netanyahu and before him all the leaders of Israel…they want the occupation,” he said. “They want the -- they want the continuation of the settlement. What do they want? What does the world need from the Palestinian people? Our people is the victim. And now we want them to raise a white flag and surrender.”

Mashaal claimed that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state along the indefensible pre-1967 borders but would refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“I accept a state of the 1967 [borders]. How can I accept Israel? They have occupied my land. I need recognition, not the Israelis. This is a reversed question,” he claimed.

“I accept a Palestinian state according to 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital, with the right to return,” added Mashaal.

Amanpour asked Mashaal if Hamas’s goal is endless fighting and endless death, to which he replied, “Of course not. The resistance is not a goal. The resistance is a means to an end. The end game is to end occupation but the international community is not enabling us to do this. They are biased toward Israel.”

Hamas’s version of peace, he said, is peace “that is not rewarding the occupier, does not oppress the victim. Peace, the kind of peace that precludes occupation and the bloodshed. Our Islam, all the religions of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, true Judaism, given this -- revealed by God, does not allow the killing of any innocents in the world.

“Palestine, from the river to the sea, from the north to the south, it is my land. And the land of my fathers and grandfathers, inhibited by the Palestinians from a long time ago. This is my land, my right,” he said.

“But because of the circumstances of the region, because of the keenness to stop the bloodshed, the Palestinians today, and in the past, and Hamas, have agreed about a program that accepts the '67 borders. But the Israelis don't accept. So it is all about - up to the Israelis. And the international community is failing to do us justice.”

The interview with Mashaal took place shortly after a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was announced. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held a joint news conferenceannouncing the ceasefire.

Hamas marked the ceasefire by firing 20 rockets at southern Israel between 9:00 p.m. and midnight Wednesday evening.

Hamas and Mashaal celebrated the ceasefire and claimed “victory” over Israel. Mashaal announced in a press conference Wednesday evening that Israel "has failed in all its goals" in Operation Defensive Pillar, following the cease fire announcement.