Hamas leader abroad Khaled Mashal discussed the October 7 attack on southern Israel in an October 19, 2023 interview on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia). He said that the attack was kept under wraps in order to surprise the enemy and all the intelligence agencies in the world and that it was carried out "in the context of legitimate resistance." In light of the atrocities perpetrated against Israeli civilians, Al-Arabiya's Rasha Nabil asked Mashal if treating civilians this way is part of Hamas's ideology and if he will apologize for the events of October 7. Mashal responded that Hamas only focuses on fighting soldiers, any accusations of misdeeds are "fabrications" by Netanyahu, and that in any war there are some civilian victims, but Hamas is not responsible for them. He said that while the clashes in southern Lebanon are a good thing, "greater things are needed."
Mashal called on Hizbullah, Egypt, and other Arab countries to join in the fighting against Israel. When asked by Rasha Nabil about the Israeli hostages held by Hamas, Mashal responded that they are not hostages but prisoners. He said that Israel released over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, and now Hamas holds dozens of Israeli soldiers and officers as prisoners, so all the thousands of prisoners held by Israel, from every faction, will be released.
Rasha Nabil: "The kind of attack Hamas carried out is not a regular operation. It is more like a declaration of war. So some people ask what you expected would be the Israeli reaction. We are watching the great human tragedy that is unfolding in the Gaza Strip. The people of Gaza woke up to this. The other factions, the Palestinian Authority, and the people of Gaza were not consulted about this. You made the decision all by yourselves."
Mashal: "That ingenious moment when the Al-Qassam Brigades managed to surprise the enemy and all the intelligence agencies in the world had to be kept [a secret] known only to a small group of people. We did not embark on a new [enterprise of] resistance. It is all part of the atmosphere of resistance. When a certain measure is taken, it is in the context of the legitimate resistance that our people have agreed upon..."
Nabil: "Okay, you have made some important points. You say that this is legitimate resistance in your view, but what the people in the West have seen on their TV screens, was transgressions by Hamas against Israeli civilians. You are responsible for Hamas's image abroad. Hamas is now being compared to ISIS."
Mashal: "This is an accusation fabricated by Netanyahu, and unfortunately, the West is collaborating with this.
"Dear sister, nations are not easily liberated. The Russians sacrificed 30 million people in World War II, in order to liberate it from Hitler's attack. The Vietnamese sacrificed 3.5 million people until they defeated the Americans. Afghanistan sacrifice millions of martyrs to defeat the USSR and then the US. The Algerian people sacrificed six million martyrs over 130 years. The Palestinian people are just like any other nation. No nation is liberated without sacrifices."
Nabil: "How can you demand that the West, and the world in general, support the Palestinian cause, when the things Hamas perpetrated against the Israeli civilians are in the headlines? You know that Israel gained a lot of sympathy because of these scenes. Is treating civilians this way part of Hamas's ideology?"
Mashal: "Sister, I told you that Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, and our military organizations focus their resistance on the occupation forces, on the soldiers, but in all wars, there are some civilian victims. We are not responsible for them."
Nabil: "Will you apologize for what was done to the Israeli civilians on October 7?"
Mashal: "With all due respect, your question... Forgive me for saying this... Apologies should be demanded from Israel. You asked me a question and I am answering it with clarity. Hamas does not kill civilians on purpose. It focuses on the soldiers. Period."
Nabil: "You said that what Hizbullah is doing is good, but it is not rising to the required level. Can we understand from this that Hizbullah and the resistance axis have so far failed your expectations regarding their reactions?"
Mashal: "We, in Palestine, are fighting. This is our position and decision. Outside of Palestine – we are grateful to whoever is standing by us. Hizbullah... The Lebanese front is now on fire, and we are grateful for that – whether it is done by Lebanese, by Palestinians, or by anyone. Hizbullah has an active role there. Those clashes in South Lebanon are good, and support our cause, but the scope of the battle... When the title is Al-Aqsa Flood, and when such a heinous crime is perpetrated against Gaza –greater things are needed, certainly. But we should not single out Lebanon and Hizbullah. Let us talk about the countries bordering with Israel. The great Egypt that has waged large wars... Today, the Egyptians are boiling [with anger]... We salute the Egyptian people, and we want more. I demand a more powerful position by the Egyptian leaders..."
Nabil: "What do you mean by 'more'? With regard to Lebanon, you know this and you can see it on the social media – the situation of the people in Lebanon is very bad. The last thing they need is another war that will come with another bill to pay. They say: Khaled Mashal is sitting in an air-conditioned room, talking about war, Jihad, and bombings."
Mashal: "We are in the middle of the battlefield. Nobody is sitting this one out. The Hamas leaders in Gaza and abroad are running this war together."
Nabil: "You decided to launch the October 7 attack, and now you are asking the Arab [countries] to join in. The Arabs did not participate in making this decision."
Mashal: "Nobody in the Arab world said to Egypt: Why did you surprise us with the 1973 war? This is because Egyptian land in Sinai was under occupation. People might object to an Arab country deciding all by itself to launch an offensive against a neighbor or another party. But when people are under occupation, they have a natural right to do so. Nobody has the right to ask us why we did this, and whether or not we consulted with anyone."
Nabil: "Has Iran lived up to your expectations so far? Iran has been speaking about the destruction of Israel."
Mashal: "Our job is to make requests and remind people [of their promises], and everyone is responsible for their own decision."
Nabil: "What do you plan to do about the hostages? What do you want in exchange?"
Mashal: "As I've said, these are prisoners. Before talking about the prisoners held by us, there are prisoners held by the enemy. There were about 5,500 of them, and now they number 10,000. Every day, Israel arrests 100, 200, or 1,000 from the West Bank. The rule we follow is that prisoners are swapped for prisoners. We took over 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Today, we have in our hands dozens of soldiers and officers. Inshallah, we will use them to empty the [Israeli] prisons, and all our sons and daughters from all the factions will be released, inshallah."