Hamas' publication of a lengthy document in multiple languages justifying its Oct. 7 attack on Israel shows the Palestinian Islamist movement's desire to play a key political role in the postwar period, an official and analysts said.
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In a painstaking text of nearly 20 pages published on Sunday in Arabic, English and French, the movement said it wanted to present “its version of the facts.” For Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, the group aims to retain a say in the future of the Gaza Strip, where it seized power in 2007.
“The movement does not demand, through this document or in any other way, the exclusivity of the leadership of the Palestinian people,” he assures AFP.
But “he calls for the reorganization” of Palestinian unity and “the reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO),” founded in 1964, “so that it is representative of everyone,” adds the senior Hamas executive and former health minister in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas was never part of the PLO, which remains dominated by Fatah, the movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
However, the power that Hamas wields in Gaza and the “movement's resistance to the Zionist project (…) qualify it to be at the head of the Palestinian people,” believes Mr. Naim.
“No party that wants to find a solution to this conflict can ignore Hamas,” continued the official, who is also the Islamist movement’s director of international relations.
The war between Israel and Hamas was sparked by a bloody and unprecedented attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement on Israeli soil from the Gaza Strip on October 7th.
The attack killed about 1,140 people on the Israeli side, most of them civilians killed on October 7, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli figures.
According to the Hamas Ministry of Health, 25,700 Palestinians, the vast majority women, children and teenagers, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7 by Israeli bombings and retaliatory military operations.
As Hamas seeks to refute what the movement calls “accusations fabricated by Israel,” it acknowledges in its document “mistakes” made on October 7, particularly against civilians, while Israeli officials claimed Palestinian fighters had committed rape.
The group also calls for an international investigation into the Israeli occupation and calls on the United States and European countries to support proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Aymenn Al-Tamimi, an expert at the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, told AFP that by appealing to an international audience, Hamas wants to refute comparisons it makes between Israel and jihadist organizations such as the Islamic State (IS) group. Perpetrators of atrocities in Syria and Iraq several years ago.
“They are trying to push back on the idea that they are similar to jihadist groups,” he asserts. Hamas “stands out clearly (…) in its language,” Mr. Tamimi added.
“At the international level, Hamas has been able to strengthen its position since October 7th,” claims Andreas Krieg, a security expert at King's College London.
And “it is easier to argue for a Palestinian state with more support,” particularly “in the south of the world,” but also “in the liberal north of the West,” he continues.
Last week, Mexico and Chile joined South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, the Comoros and Djibouti in calling for an International Criminal Court investigation into the war.
In an apparent appeal to the South, the Hamas document calls on “the nations that have been colonized and are aware of the suffering of the Palestinian people to take serious and effective positions against the Israeli occupation.”
The Palestinian movement “will not be defeated and will not be eradicated from Gaza,” assures Hugh Lovatt, researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
“Any initiative to stabilize the Gaza Strip, any return of a revitalized Palestinian Authority will probably have to be accepted to some extent by Hamas itself.”
But, the researcher adds: “If the movement wants to explain why it should not be treated like the pariah it has deserved since October 7, it must start by revealing (…) its political strategy.” This document does not do that.”