Interview: The View from Gaza City

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TIME's Phil Zabriskie talked with Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for and adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, on July 1, at the Prime Minister's office in Gaza City. Here are excerpts from his interview.

Are you certain that the soldier is alive?

I believe if Israel believes for one moment that the soldier was dead, I think they will go inside Gaza [City]. But because they believe he is alive, they have given a chance to negotiation. They want to bring him back. Because if they killed hundreds of people and did not succeed in bringing him back alive, this would be a big loss for Israel.

On the Palestinian side, how are the decisions being made? Is the government talking to the different wings of Hamas and other factions?

The situation is not easy. It's not like a country like England, where you have a government with full domination of powers and control [over] every centimeter. Gaza is like a big prison. We are surrounded by Israeli troops from the sea, from the air. They daily make air raids and assassination and killing people. We have people who want to act, to retaliate.

You're saying militant groups want to retaliate right now and are being held back?

Yes. The government is making a great effort in order to keep the situation quiet. But we are waiting for the Israeli side to do the same thing, to stop the military escalation, to stop the assassinations. We said we are ready to treat the problem of the missiles in the north of Gaza, but we did not receive a positive response.

You mean you can convince the militant groups to stop firing rockets into Israel?

We can do it.

What is Khaled Mashaal's role in this?

Khaled Mashaal is the head of the political bureau of Hamas. But Hamas is one organization, and when they take one decision, this is one decision. It is not divided from inside or outside. But you know, sometimes the Israeli media and Israel government try to show Khaled Mashaal is responsible, in order to find an excuse to target Syria, to target Khaled Mashaal. But this action, the abducted soldier, was done by the military wing of Hamas. There is separation between the political leadership and the military leadership. This does not mean the military leadership listens to the orders of the political leadership.

They took the action on their own?


So Hamas's military wing, Izzadin al Qassam, has the soldier?

There are three factions together, including the military wing of Hamas, Izzadin al Qassam, which is the biggest and the most important.

And you're saying you don't have any contacts with them?

We have no direct contacts with them as a military wing, because as a government we don't want to be responsible for such actions. We try, as a government, to be responsible for the Palestinian people, for the security of the Palestinian people, and we are trying to make contacts with all people in order to find a solution and find some way to prevent escalation.

Wouldn't this be a good time to make contact and try to exert some leverage?

We have different people who have contacts with them.