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As Gaza Teeters on Precipice, a Hamas Leader Speaks Out

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Given all that, he said: “We believe that if we have a way to potentially resolve the conflict without destruction, we’re O.K. with that. We want to invest in peace and love.”

Mr. Sinwar noted that he had some success with nonviolent protests in his Israeli prison, where he led hunger strikes to obtain better food and medical care and even to allow prisoners access to pens and paper.

“When we went on hunger strikes, the Israelis approached us,” he said. “Now, it’s the same thing: We Palestinians are coming out in droves, looking for compromise, so there should be negotiations.”

Hamas is not giving up its arsenal of rockets, however. “We would prefer to earn our rights by soft and peaceful means,” Mr. Sinwar said. “But we understand that if we are not given those rights, we are entitled to earn them by resistance.”

Reconciliation is not a lost cause.

Mr. Sinwar pushed hard for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the Palestinian faction that dominates the Palestinian Authority, led by Mr. Abbas, in the West Bank. Hamas made a number of major concessions, but Mr. Sinwar said it had received little in return, and he conceded that the opening for a successful unification had narrowed considerably.

Yet he insisted that, because the decision to pursue reconciliation was made as a group, his standing within Hamas had not suffered as a result. And he argued that, to the contrary, the protests have promoted the idea of reconciliation by uniting Palestinians of all factions against a common enemy, Israel.

“Visiting different encampments I was hugged, people kissed my hand,” he said. “They’d tell me they’re Fatah affiliates, yet they have the utmost love and respect for me.” The protests, he said, were “helping us reorganize our priorities: Instead of blaming each other, we’re expressing our anger at the root cause.”


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