MARK DAVIS: Dr Mahmoud al Zahhar thanks again for coming in.
I know it’s difficult circumstances. There’s now been some time to reflect upon a response to this assassination – what will Hamas’s considered response be?
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR, DEPUTY LEADER HAMAS, GAZA: First of all, I would like to address that vast majority of the Palestinian people attended the funeral of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and most groups came to the ceremony for this martyrism, from all factions, so the Palestinian people reacted positively. In addition to the Arabic and Islamic countries, demonstrations everywhere and condemning this crime, Hamas already established a wage of self-resistance defence to attack the Israeli targets in the occupied territories. These started just yesterday and everybody, including the Israeli, are expecting that we are going to attack targets everywhere by own means concerning and coping with the big crime committed against the Palestinian, Arabic and Islamic countries.
MARK DAVIS: So that’s clear and official from the leadership that you will be attacking Israeli targets – and does that include Israeli civilian targets?
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR: We tried many times through the negotiation represented by the PA, and we failed to achieve our goal. The people shifted all the factions, including Fatah, shifted to armed struggle in order to dismiss the Israeli outside. So the process of confrontation is not war between two countries, it’s a matter of self-defence of the occupied people against an aggression of occupation and settlement. So we are going to attack the settler who the Israeli describe them as citizens.
MARK DAVIS: Sir, given the current circumstance, comments like that are likely to make you a target for assassination. Do you expect that and are you adapting to that circumstance?
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR: We are adapted, actually, with these circumstances, since more than 100 years – since the Jewish Zionists started to be activist in our land and to take our land. We are not afraid. Nobody is scared in the Palestinian society and there is an insistent and there is a determination for continuation of our armed struggle till we convince the Israeli to leave our land and to give us a chance.
MARK DAVIS: Do you now expect that you will be targeted for an assassination? You’re making threats against Israel and Israeli civilians. Is this an expected outcome for you?
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR: Already they try that twice with me. The first, when they attacked the mosque while I was away in Ramadan and at that time was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, that was in 2001, and after – and the last September 10, they demolished my house by a bomb about 600kg. They killed my dear son who got Masters degree from Britain and they injured my wife, deeply injured in the back, and my daughter, an engineer, and demolished my house completely. So they already did so and now they are publicly – publicly, they are saying that they are going to continue. We are not scared. We are going to continue our armed struggle, we are going to continue our self-defence and we are dead sure that we are going to be a victorious system, a victorious element in the region.
MARK DAVIS: Given the threats that have been made against you and other leaders, is it now possible for Hamas to operate openly in the Gaza and the West Bank? Is it possible for you to perhaps do television interviews like this anymore or will the movement move more underground?
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR: We are accustomed to live under these conditions since the three years, so don’t be afraid about the movement. The movement is big movement. Most of them are accustomed to live in underground and, if anybody will be assassinated, a replacement, an alternative will be ready as we did just yesterday.
MARK DAVIS: Well, Israel is claiming that the attack on Sheikh Yassin was a response to a Hamas suicide bombing on March 14. Did you bring this attack upon yourselves through that bombing attack?
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR: You know, the Israeli are big liars and they are using propaganda and the Zionist press media in America and in Europe to distort the image. Now they are trying to make linkage between al-Qa’ida and Hamas. They are saying that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin participated or ordered 400 Israeli killings. So this is – these are just fabricated in order to make a false imagination through the press media for the people in order for the international attitude…
MARK DAVIS: But sir, the March 14 bombing wasn’t a fabrication. The March 14 bombing killed 10 people.
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR: These are soldiers who are carrying guns and killing our people and they are taking our land. So, as a matter of self-defence, we have no alternative option except to run such operation for elimination of the occupation. The question is for how long we are going to suffer from long-standing occupation. Give me one example in the world that’s still living for more than 55 years under such disastrous life, destroyed our future, killed our children and destroyed our houses and put us in a big, big prison whether they are in the West Bank or in Gaza Strip.
MARK DAVIS: Generally, Hamas has confined itself to local Palestinian issues but now the military wing of Hamas is threatening America, blaming America for this attack and calling for retaliation. Is there likely to be an end tonight …to broaden the Hamas threat to other international targets?
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR: First of all, America is not our government and we are not obedient for America and we are dealing with America as the co-partner with Israel for all the crimes committed by them against our people. So they give them the green light and Sharon will never decide to assassinate Sheikh Ahmed Yassin without taking green light from Bush. Bush, who brought army to attack and to kill also civilian people in Iraq. Bush now is representing the… as he described, a new Crusades.
MARK DAVIS: Al-Qa’ida has also vowed retaliation against America and its allies. What are the connections between Hamas and al-Qa’ida and do you support those claims?
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR: We have no connection between al-Qa’ida and Hamas. Hamas concentrated their activities on the occupied territories in Palestine, but I expect every Islamic movement everywhere is going to make retaliation for the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is not only a Palestinian symbol, he is also Arabic and Islamic and even for you in Europe, in England, in everywhere, it could escalate the process of anti-Jewish attitude, that because they are considering every Jew is backing and supporting Israel for continuation of their crimes against the Palestinian people.
MARK DAVIS: Dr al Zahhar, thanks again for your time.
MAHMOUD AL ZAHHAR: Most welcome.