Isma'il Haniyeh, interviewed by the Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV channel (al-Mayadeen YouTube channel, March 3, 2020).
On March 3, 2020, Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, was interviewed by the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen TV channel in Lebanon. Some of the topics he related to were Hamas’s perception of a lull arrangement, Hamas’ military buildup, Hamas’ position on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s (PIJ) attacks and a long-term lull arrangement which would require Hamas to disarm. Haniyeh’s main message was that Hamas is prepared for a limited arrangement to help ease the humanitarian hardships of the Gazans, but rejects a long-term lull which could force Hamas to abandon its fundamental positions, among them continuing the buildup of its military force and keeping its weapons.
- Three subjects were focused on in the interview:
- The upgrading of Hamas’s military capabilities since Operation Protective Edge (2014): Haniyeh boasted that Hamas’ military force had greatly improved since Operation Protective Edge. He claimed Hamas (and the other organizations) had held out against Israel for 51 days and attacked many targets in Israel (including imposing an “aerial closure” on Ben-Gurion International Airport). He added that Hamas’ capability to attack Israel today, if [Israel] “does something foolish to Gaza,” is far greater than it was in the past. In ITIC assessment his intention was to deter Israel from initiating a broad military operation, in view of recent statements from senior Israeli officials (“…the threats don’t end…”). In addition, Haniyeh’s statements may reflect the self-confidence Hamas has gained from improving its military capabilities after Operation Protective Edge.
- Hamas perception of an arrangement: Hamas seeks understandings that will lift the “siege” of the Gaza Strip and provide humanitarian assistance for the Gazan civilian population. He claimed it was acceptable to the other Palestinian organizations (“an understanding in return for an understanding”). However, Hamas has no interest in a long-term lull agreement which will force it to abandon its fundamental positions or disarm. Haniyeh said that regardless of the contacts for an arrangement, Hamas continues its strategy of military buildup and will not agree to abandon that strategy as part of a lull arrangement. His statements about the nature of the arrangement are consistent with those made previously by senior Hamas figures, who said Hamas is prepared to accept a short-term, minimalist arrangement, in which Hamas will receive humanitarian aid and practical measures will be put into operation to “ease the siege.”
- Providing media support for the PIJ: Although the latest round of escalation was initiated by the PIJ, challenging Hamas’ policy, and despite the fact that Hamas did not participate in the rocket fire, Isma’il Haniyeh again gave the PIJ media support without specifically mentioning it by name (after giving the PIJ media support during and after the latest round of escalation). He accused Israel of acting against the PIJ, from the killing of Bahaa Abu al-Atta (one of its senior commanders) to using an “occupation bulldozer in a terrible way” to remove the body of a PIJ operative who had been killed, to attacking the PIJ’s bases in Damascus. Therefore, said Haniyeh, the “resistance” [i.e., the PIJ] has the “right” to respond to Israel’s “aggression.” In ITIC assessment, Hamas’ media support and its lack of effective restraint of the PIJ may encourage it to continue challenging Hamas by attacking Israel, including sporadic rocket fire into Israeli territory.
Quotations from al-Mayadeen’s interview with Isma’il Haniyeh that relate to the issue of a lull arrangement and Hamas’ military buildup
- The following are quotations from Isma’il Haniyeh’s interview regarding the agreement for a lull arrangement and Hamas’ military buildup:
- “…the [Israeli] threats don’t end. They continue but don’t frighten [us]. It is out of the question for the resistance to surrender. The resistance in the Gaza Strip cannot be broken. [The resistance in Gaza] is strong. It continues its strategy of amassing power and military buildup. It participated in three wars waged by the Israeli occupation. The most recent was in 2014 [i.e., Operation Protective Edge], which lasted for 51 days. The Islamic resistance in all its factions, led by the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades [Hamas’ military wing], recorded impressive achievements in the confrontation with the occupation and deterred [Israel] from continuing its aggression against Gaza.”
- […and as to] the issue of a long-term lull, I don’t think its possible [because when we talk about a] long-term [lull] we’re talking about years. That demands a broader approach than the issue of the ongoing situation in the Gaza Strip. However, [at the current time] there are understandings in return for understandings, [one of which is that] the siege will be lifted from the Gaza Strip and the humanitarian suffering of the Palestinian people will come to an end. Our people in Gaza will enjoy some of the rights that were stolen from them. All the Palestinian factions agree on that, and our brothers in Egypt and Qatar are monitoring the issue…”
- “…As soon as the [Israel] occupation commits itself [to implementing the understandings] all the resistance factions will commit themselves to it. If Israel continues implementing the understandings and fulfills its obligations according to them, in my opinion our side will also continue with the understandings, and will act in accordance with them. Our objective is to achieve the aspirations and highest interests of our people as a step [forward] in the plan for the liberation, the ‘return’ and independence…”
- “…We monitor the behavior of the Israeli occupation, especially when it recently began an attack on the factions In the Gaza Strip [i.e., against the PIJ]. It was [Israel] that recently killed the shaheed Bahaa Abu al-Atta, it was Israel that bombed in Damascus and tried to harm [senior PIJ leader] Ikram al-Ajouri and killed his son. [Israel] recently also bombed in Damascus and killed two of our PIJ brothers. [There is] also the heroic shaheed [whose body was] lifted by an occupation bulldozer in a terrible way with the whole world watching. Therefore, it is the right of the factions and the resistance to respond to [Israel’s] aggression and to resist Israel’s attacks, and to preserve and defend the Palestinian people…”
- “…It is not easy for me to talk about what the Palestinian resistance has [in its arsenal] and what the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades have. I will only hint that in 2014 al-Qassam [Brigades] together with the PIJ’s [Jerusalem] Brigades and other Palestinian resistance factions, stood firm [against Israel] for 51 days. Until the very last minute [of Operation Protective Edge] the rockets of al-Qassam hit many Zionist targets and facilities. At the same time [they] imposed an aerial closure on Lod [Ben-Gurion International Airport]. [Afterwards,] during the past six years between 2014 to 2020, the [military] force of the resistance, the force of the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades has been doubled and doubled and doubled again. [Today they possess] what they didn’t have in 2014. In short, if the Israeli occupation thinks [about doing] something foolish regarding the Gaza Strip, it will see what it didn’t see in 2014, and I’m not going to give any more details…”.
 For further information, see the December 12, 2019 ITIC bulletin, "Hamas’s perception of the lull agreement with Israel, recently discussed in Cairo." ↑
 For further information, see the November 17, 2019 ITIC bulletin, : The Latest Round of Escalation in the Gaza Strip: What Next? (Initial Assessment)." ↑