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Mash'al: Hamas not responsible for Jerusalem shooting attack

April 2, 2008 9:41 A.M. (Updated: April 2, 2008 9:41 A.M.)
Damascus - Ma'an - The exiled head of Hamas' political bureau, Khalid Mash'al, says Hamas cannot claim responsibility for the deadly shooting attack at a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem in March because the movement's military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, did not claim responsibility for the operation in an official statement.

"Regardless of who conducted the shooting, we bless it as a resistance activity especially because it came in retaliation for the Israeli atrocities in the Gaza Strip and the 'holocaust' Israel undertook there," Mash'al told Ma'an's correspondent at the Arab League summit, Nasser Lahham.

Lahham conducted a short interview with Mash'al in his office in Damascus in the presence of Muhammad Nazzal and Muhmmad Nasr, both members of Hamas' politburo:

Lahham: What message would you like to send to Palestinian women, and will Hamas really ask them to wear head scarves?

Mash'al: Hamas' top priority is to liberate the Palestinian homeland rather than rising to power. What happened in the Gaza Strip was participation in the Palestinian political system rather than taking control of Gaza. We participated in the Palestinian legislative system, then the government and later we will participate in the PLO as a Palestinian nationalist entity. Unfortunately, all the PLO's doors were closed to Hamas in 2005, and they even rejected us as a government.

With regard to Palestinian women, after the Palestinians' top objectives of self-determination and freedom become realized, we will argue democratically with women. We believe in people's right to choose what they wear, and women who want to wear head scarves will be free to do it, and they should not be prevented doing that. Islamic religion does not say we have to force people to follow it, and accordingly, Muslims can't impose their traditions on those who do not want to adhere to them.

Lahham: What do you think of the Christians migrating from Palestine?

Mash'al: Incitement attempts in this regard have failed, and that was evident in the way Hamas dealt with the Christian brothers as Hamas nominated a Christian member to the [Palestinian Legislative Council] in the Gaza Strip, and we were very open to them.

I will tell you a story from my own experience that took place months ago. I was in a shuttle in an airport in an Arab country when a young Christian man from Beit Jala [near Bethlehem] approached me, shook my hands warmly and said, "We elected Hamas and we will do that again." So, we can tell that the Christian people in Palestine elected Hamas because it preaches tolerance and coexistence, and Hamas adopts a moderate Islamic approach.

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