Hamas leader Dr. Salah Bardawil today played down Israeli threats to carry out a wide-scale invasion of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying that Israel is trying to blackmail the Palestinian Authority in order to sabotage the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
In a statement to “Quds Press” Dr. Bardawil declined to make a link between the overnight Israeli air attacks and the disappearance of three Israeli settlers in Hebron and the major search and arrest operations in the West Bank.
“The abduction which was announced by the Zionist entity (Israel) is a one-sided story. No Palestinian faction has claimed responsibility. So we in Hamas have no comment. Maybe this operation is a “false flag” operation, one created by the occupation in order to sabotage the reconciliation and sow confusion among the Palestinian factions,” he said.
“The issue of the abducted Israeli settlers is a one-sided story we will not address.”
Regarding the possibility that the Israeli escalation might become a war against the West Bank and Gaza, Dr. Bardawil rebuffed the idea.
“Intimidation by the Zionist occupation could be an attempt to subvert the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and shuffle the cards in the Palestinian arena. Alternatively, Israel wants to have another round of wide-scale military operations against Gaza Strip to cover up its failure to find the abducted Israelis despite the arrest campaign in Hebron and the West Bank in cooperation with PA security forces,” he said.
Bardawil believes a major escalation is unlikely in the immediate future given the challenges facing the Israeli Prime Minister and his coalition government, and the balance of international forces, particularly its relationship with the U.S. administration.
“Whatever happens, the position of Hamas is that we are in the Palestinian resistance and we will fight back against Israeli aggression; the Israeli occupation will pay the price for any fool move of this kind.”
Dr. Bardawil called on the Palestinian Authority not to bow to what he called “Zionist blackmail” and demanded that Abbas stick to reconciliation.
“We (Hamas) call on the authority to pay attention to what the occupation forces are doing; they are tightening the siege on Gaza, they are threatening the PA in the West Bank. This is a blatant attempt to subvert the Palestinian reconciliation. We believe that adhering to reconciliation and ending the division is less damaging to the PA than succumbing to Israeli demands, and surrendering to the occupation,” Dr. Bardawil concluded.