Osama Hamdan, the leader of Hamas in Lebanon, said on Saturday that accepting Israeli security demands would not bring peace to the region, after his group launched a surprise attack on Israel that killed hundreds of people and sparked fears of a wider war.
Hamdan said in the operation, which involved Hamas gunmen infiltrating Israel through tunnels and rockets fired from Gaza, was a message to Arab states that have been moving closer to Israel in recent years.
“For those who want stability and peace in the region, the starting point must be to end the Israeli occupation,” he said. “Some (Arab states) unfortunately started imagining that Israel could be the gateway for America to defend their security.”
The attack, which Hamas said was in response to Israeli aggression and violations of Palestinian rights, was the biggest incursion into Israel in decades and the deadliest since the 1967 Six-Day War.
It was also seen as a challenge to the U.S.-backed efforts to forge a new regional security alignment that would include Israel and some of its Arab neighbours, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who share concerns about Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions.
The attack was praised by Iran and by Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese allies, who have been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against rebels backed by some Arab states.
Israel vowed to retaliate with “mighty vengeance” and accused Hamas of launching a “cruel and wicked war”. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would stop supplying electricity, fuel and goods to Gaza and warned that Hamas had crossed a “red line”.
The international community condemned the violence and called for an immediate ceasefire.