January 10, 2009 / 10:40 PM / 10 years ago

Hamas leader accuses Israel of Gaza holocaust

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal accused Israel on Saturday of perpetrating a “holocaust” in Gaza and said its invasion had only succeeded in drowning the besieged territory in a “sea of blood.”

In a speech from the Syrian capital widely carried by Arab channels, Meshaal said Israelis’ support for the 15-day offensive compromised the moral fabric of the Jewish state.

“I ask you Israelis, what have you achieved from this war you support? What have you achieved except killing innocent children and creating a trace of smashed skulls and a sea of blood drowning Gaza?” Meshaal said.

“What have you achieved except a holocaust your leaders want to win the next Israeli elections with?” Meshaal said, using the term for the Nazi genocide during World War Two that killed some six million Jews.

Israel said Hamas was to blame for the civilian death toll because the group’s fighters used civilians as a shield and hid in buildings and urban infrastructure.

Meshaal, who lives in exile in Syria, said Israel was deliberately targeting civilians to destroy morale in Gaza. He reiterated Hamas’s conditions for a cease-fire, including ending an Israeli blockade that was one of the reasons cited by the group for its decision not to renew a six-month truce in December.

“BITTER TASTE”

Citing a history of Arab struggle against invaders, Meshaal questioned how long Israel would survive, saying the ferocity of the Israeli attacks finished off chances for a lasting peace between the Jewish state and the Arab world surrounding it.

“You have destroyed the last chance for negotiations. No one will now believe you. Our people are fed up with compromises after they had tried them for so long. A bitter taste is all that’s left,” he said addressing the Israeli public.

“You should know God’s law. There is no future for entities and nations founded on oppression and aggression. This is a law applicable to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike,” he added.

Meshaal said Israel’s onslaught on Gaza was failing to achieve military objectives, citing rockets still falling on Israel from Gaza and Palestinian resistance to far superior Israeli forces.

“You have created resistance in every household and every town,” he said.

Meshaal said Israel had also lost the battle for international public opinion, with worldwide demonstrations and popular Arab anger.

“We are living the most difficult days of the battle. What is needed is fierce resistance on the ground of Gaza and fierce support from the Arab, Islamic and international street until the aggression ends and the enemy withdraws.”

Hamas’s ideology is based on non-recognition of Israel and its charter calls for Israel’s destruction.

Leaders of the Islamist group have said in the past they would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war in return for a truce with the Jewish state lasting for decades.

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