While US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other key figures in the Biden administration are calling on Israel for a “humanitarian pause” to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza for sending aid and releasing hostages, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told Lebanese journalist Marlene Khalifeh that “only hostages Hamas was holding in Gaza were Israeli soldiers and that civilians had been captured by other elements with confidence with Hamas. This was reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Hamdan’s interview was published on November 7, 2023 by masdardiplomacy[dot]com and the Lebanese daily Al-Liwaa.
The report said, Osama Hamdan said that his organization’s October 7, 2023 attack on southern Israel was part of its strategy to put an end to Arab countries’ normalization with Israel. Stating that if there was a way to turn back time, Hamas would carry out the attack again.
Hamdan said that Hamas values Hizbullah’s “real support”, stressing that it is more than just moral support, and that in addition to Qatari efforts to broker a prisoner exchange with Israel, there are also efforts involving US envoy Amos Hochstein and former Lebanese Security Directorate chief Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.
The interviewer said that the first question that came to her mind was: “If we could go back in time one month, would Hamas against carry out Operation Al-Aqsa Flood?”
Hamdan answered: “Although this is a hypothetical question, I can still say that the answer is yes, since the operation was not a momentary step, but rather part of [Hamas’s] strategy which is aimed at ending Israel’s attempts to bring an end to the Palestinian cause and to build local alliances that will remove the Palestinian people from history. I believe that the greatest achievement of this operation was not just the damage inflicted to the Israeli military and its true image, but also the fact that the operation ended Israel’s ambitions to become a natural entity in the region at the expense of the Palestinian nation”.
The interviewer asked Hamdan: “Does Hamas anticipate that this war will expand into a regional war following Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s recent speech, which left all options on the table?” Hamdan answered:
“I think that all options are on the table, and the matter depends on the behavior of the [Israeli] enemy. There is no doubt that the enemy must understand that it will pay the price for its actions and its aggression. How broad will this be in scope? That depends on how this enemy behaves”.
When asked about Hizbullah’s support for Hamas, he said: “There is no doubt that what the resistance and Hizbullah are doing in southern Lebanon is appreciated by the Palestinian people. There are daily clashes [in Lebanon] with the [Israeli] occupation, and there are martyrs. This support is not just a matter of morale – it is real support. There are dozens of martyrs, and they have families. There are [also] those who were forced to leave their homes, albeit temporarily. Everything that is happening in Lebanon is part of real support for Palestine on the part of the resistance”.
Speaking about the hostages captured by Hamas on October 7, Hamdan said:
“There are the captured soldiers and they will be swapped in a prisoner exchange after [Israel’s] aggression is over. They constitute most [of the prisoners]. There is a large number of them, but I won’t disclose how many. There are also people who were brought to Gaza by various means, but not by the resistance [i.e. not by Hamas itself]. Some of them have dual citizenship and some of them are foreigners. We have counted over 51 dual citizens. Under the current circumstances we cannot count all of them, since they are not in Hamas’s possession… They are not in our possession and are located throughout the Gaza Strip. Some of them are held by other forces, and some by other elements”.
When asked whether Hamas is providing supplies for the forces that are holding the hostages, he said: “This is not a matter of providing [supplies]. People value Hamas and have confidence in the way we do things, so they respond to our needs”.
When asked about the negotiations to release hostages with dual citizenship, which are mediated by American diplomat Amos Hochstein and former Lebanese Security Directorate chief General Abbas Ibrahim, Hamdan said: “I do not want to discuss any details. We are giving these efforts a chance, maybe they will succeed”.
He also refused to provide details about whether Hamas’s military or political leadership is involved in the negotiations.
With regard to American diplomat Amos Hochstein, who is the US representative in the mediation, he said: “He is American and is operating with the consent of the American government. [Hamas] does not work with him, but rather through General Abbas Ibrahim, who is very respected and valued by the resistance in Lebanon and the Lebanese people, as well as among the Palestinian resistance, and particularly Hamas. We have confidence in him”.
When asked about the role being played by Qatar in the mediation, he said: “There are attempts by anybody who believes that it is critical to stop the aggression against Gaza, and we appreciate all these efforts and attempts”.
In an interview with Lebanese journalist Marlene Khalifeh, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said that his organization’s October 7, 2023 attack on southern Israel was part of its strategy to put an end to Arab countries’ normalization with Israel. Stating that if there was a way to turn back time, Hamas would carry out the attack again, he added that the only hostages Hamas was holding in Gaza were Israeli solders and that the civilians had been captured by other elements with “confidence” in Hamas.
What message do we get from this interview of Hamas official Osama Hamdan? He has clearly said, civilian hostages, which comprises Israeli, American, European and Asians are being held by elements with “confidence” in Hamas. He also admitted that food and essentials are not being sent to those hostages. In this case, can anyone ask – why Biden and his administration are bluffing the world stating they are negotiating with Hamas in getting hostages released? Why they are hiding an important fact that the hostages are facing extreme cruelty in the captivity of Hamas-loyalist Palestinian terrorists, that would include brutal torture, rape and other forms of cruelties?
Meanwhile, according to experts, while Biden administration is demanding “humanitarian pause” in the ongoing military operation in Gaza, such demand is actually immoral and cruel to the Israeli hostages and their families, and it would also arguably constitute a war crime.
Taking hostages is considered a “grave breach” of a number of international laws, including the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages, and therefore, interfering with the return of such hostages is also a war crime. Specifically, Article 3 of the Convention requires the “release” and “departure” of hostages, and Article 1 requires that no conditions be placed upon such release.
Furthermore, Israel has not only a right, but also an obligation to defend its citizens under Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Given that the IDF’s military campaign has proven to be a means of securing the “release” and “departure” of hostages as required by international law, any interference with Israel’s legal right to self-defense would be a prima facie violation of Article 3.
Also, requiring a ceasefire or any other condition in exchange for the release of hostages would be a prima facie violation of Article 1. In other words, on its face, demands for a ceasefire under these circumstances technically constitute a war crime against the Israeli people.