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Hamas speaks

As Barack Obama briefly breaks his silence on the bloodshed in Gaza, Hamas' political leadership says Palestinians 'demand of the next White House a new paradigm of respect and accountability'. A Norwegian doctor in Gaza City's Shifa hospital reports that among the 2,500 injured, 45 per cent are women and children. In Afghanistan, a drive to collect money, blood plasma and volunteers to fight alongside the Palestinians comes in response to calls for a jihad against Israel and hatred of the 'blood-sucking' American government.

On Tuesday afternoon, the US President-elect Barack Obama finally broke his silence about Israel's war on Gaza. "The loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern to me, and after Jan 20 I'm going to have plenty to say about the issue," he told reporters. He gave no indication that over the intervening two weeks he will have anything further to add. His brief comments came on a day that an Israeli strike killed dozens of Palestinian refugees seeking shelter in a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor at Shifa hospital treating victims of the Israeli assault of Gaza told Sky News in a report rebroadcast on America's CBS News: "[since] we came on New Year's Eve in the morning I've seen one military person among the tens, I mean, the hundreds that we have seen and treated. So anybody who tries to portray this as sort of a clean war against another army are lying. This is an all out war against the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza, and we can prove that with the numbers. "And you have to remember, the average age of the Gaza inhabitants is 17 years. It's a very young population, and 80 per cent are living below the poverty limit of the UN. So this is a poor and very young people, and they are able to escape absolutely nowhere because they cannot flee like other populations can in wartime, because they are fenced in and they are in a cage. So they are bombing one and a half million people in a cage. And young people, poor people, and you know, you cannot separate between the civilians and the fighters in such a situation." In an interview with BBC News, Dr Gilbert said among the 2,500 injured, 45 per cent are women and children. Khaled Meshaal, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau in Damascus, wrote in The Guardian: "For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start. Israel was required to open crossings to Gaza, and extend the truce to the West Bank. It proceeded to tighten its deadly siege of Gaza, repeatedly cutting electricity and water supplies. The collective punishment did not halt, but accelerated - as did the assassinations and killings. Thirty Gazans were killed by Israeli fire and hundreds of patients died as a direct effect of the siege during the so-called ceasefire. Israel enjoyed a period of calm. Our people did not. "When this broken truce neared its end, we expressed our readiness for a new comprehensive truce in return for lifting the blockade and opening all Gaza border crossings, including Rafah. Our calls fell on deaf ears. Yet still we would be willing to begin a new truce on these terms following the complete withdrawal of the invading forces from Gaza." In the Los Angeles Times, Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau in Damascus, said: "as the death toll rises in the hundreds, with thousands wounded - all victims of American taxpayers' largesse - Palestinians wonder how Obama will react to the escalating crisis. They demand of the next White House a new paradigm of respect and accountability, because when Palestinians see an F-16 with the Star of David painted on its tail, they see America. "Palestinians are understandably guarded about the coming administration, noting its appointments with trepidation. The soon-to-be secretary of State is unforgettable for urging years ago US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's 'undivided' capital, while the administration's chief of staff bears the stain of his father's service in the banned terrorist Irgun paramilitary, a Zionist group responsible for numerous atrocities. "Renewed calls today for our movement to 'recognise the right of Israel to exist,' in the face of murderous onslaught, ring as hollow as Israel's continuing claims to be acting in 'self-defense' as her jets bomb civilians. Without debating here the Zionist state's fictive, existential 'right,' which of the many Israels, precisely, would the West have us recognise? Is it the Israel that militarily occupies land belonging to three of its neighbours, ignoring international law and scores of UN resolutions over decades? Is it the Israel that illegally settles its citizens on other people's land, seizes water sources and uproots olive trees? Is it the Israel that in 60 years has never acknowledged the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their farms and villages as the foundational act of its statehood and denies refugees their right to return? "Through bitter experience, when we hear demands for 'recognition' of Israel as a precondition to dialogue, what we hear is a call for acquiescence in its crimes against us, validating the injustices that have been wrought in its name." Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported: "The modest white Miladul Nabi mosque is almost hidden beneath a massive poster that depicts a red fist raised to the heavens surrounded by slogans expressing sympathy for the Palestinian people, support for what it calls their jihad against Israel and hatred of the 'blood-sucking' American government. "Last weekend, the mosque sponsored a protest rally against the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. On Monday, half a dozen young men with cellphones worked in its library, organising a drive to collect money, blood plasma and volunteers to fight alongside the Palestinians. Sitting among them was the mosque's imam, Ehsan Habibullah. "'Afghanistan is the land of holy warriors. We feel the pain of the innocent Palestinians, and we will stand with them to the end,' Habibullah said. 'Israel is a terrorist state, and the Americans are supporting it, so how can they claim to be against terrorism? In Afghanistan, they are bombing civilians and setting dogs against women and children. They are not killing al Qa'eda - they are killing us.' " The International Crisis Group, in a report on ending the war in Gaza, said: "Fighting that began as a tug-of-war over terms of a new ceasefire has become a battle over terms of deterrence and the balance of power - with no easy way out. Israel in principle wants a ceasefire, but only after it brings Hamas to its knees, strips it of long-range capabilities and dispels any illusion of a fight among equals in which rocket fire has the same deterrent effect as air force raids, all of which could take a long time. Hamas, too, has an interest in a ceasefire, but only in return for opening the crossings. In the meantime, it sees every day of conflict as testimony to its resistance credentials. Both inexorably will see more benefit in persevering with violent confrontation than in appearing to give in."

pwoodward@thenational.ae

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