MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Yesterday on the program, we talked with Israel's ambassador to the United States. And today, we'll hear from a leader of Hamas, Deputy Foreign Minister Ghazi Hamad. I asked him why Hamas had launched a rocket attack on Jerusalem, which is after all one of Islam's holiest cities.
GHAZI HAMAD: Look, now there is open war now that Israel targeting on regions and all cities in Gaza. So maybe the equation is that if Gaza is not there, Tel Aviv will not be safe and Jerusalem will not be safe.
BLOCK: You're saying if Gaza is not safe, then Jerusalem will not be safe, and Tel Aviv will not be safe?
HAMAD: Yes. Yes.
BLOCK: Wouldn't you run the risk of killing Palestinians who live in Jerusalem with an attack like that?
HAMAD: OK. We are not interested in the (unintelligible) now to go to escalation and to uprising, and we are interested to avoid the war and to avoid the confrontation. But this war is important to us because Israel (unintelligible) started with the operation of assassination. So we were able to (unintelligible) and also to tell Israel: Gaza is not easy for you to enter and to kill people.
BLOCK: You're saying you want to avoid confrontation. Israel, of course, says it is acting in self-defense, responding to what they say were 1,000 rocket attacks that Hamas has launched into Israel over the last month alone. Aren't you inviting retaliation with those attacks? Why continue?
HAMAD: If we go back to the beginning of this (unintelligible) you will find that Israel started this war against us when they started to target different region and to assassinate the commander in Hamas. And after that, they ask us to keep silent and to - just watching the episode unfolding in Gaza. This is unfair. We are not interested (unintelligible) now to go to escalation or to (unintelligible). We want to live in peace and security like all people in the world, but we are under occupation.
BLOCK: Israel says that it assassinated the military commander of Hamas, though, after Hamas had launched hundreds of rocket attacks into Israel, that that was the provocation right there.
HAMAD: Look, it's like the story of the chicken and the egg. Who is the first? Now, there's a bloody cycle all the time. But I can say that we (unintelligible) Palestinians, the source of all evil is the occupation, that unless the Palestinian people achieve their goals and establish their state, and they have the respect and independence, like all people in the world, you will find such cycles of violence and violence, and violence will not end.
BLOCK: You said in until Palestinians are respected in the world, you're going to see these cycles and cycles of violence. And you say you want to see them come to an end. The U.S. State Department says the burden is on Hamas to stop the fighting. Are you prepared to stop the attacks on Israel? Are you prepared to call off the rocket attacks?
HAMAD: As I told you, we have no (unintelligible) if Israel decide to stop the military - you know, we have no aircrafts. We have no massive weapons like Israel. We have no tanks. Maybe we have some small missiles, that's right, but if you make comparison between the number of victims here and there, you'll find we have about 23 people were killed. And then the other side, I think (unintelligible) more than three or four. And, you know, in the last war, before three years also, I want to remind you that Israel killed more than 1,500 people. Most of them are civilians. Why did they target such people?
BLOCK: Mr. Hamad, what is the effect on Hamas of the assassination this week of your top military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari?
HAMAD: Look, it is not the first time that Israel assassinated the leaders of Hamas. Maybe in the last five or six years, they killed more than 200, and some of them are very prominent figure. So I think we are not a small organization. We are very big organization. We have many leaders. We have many, many people who can take the place of al-Jabari. You know, this is long conflict between us and Israel.
BLOCK: You're saying Hamas is not a small organization. You have many leaders. And you think that Mr. al-Jabari can be...
HAMAD: That's right.
BLOCK: ...replaced. How does this end, Mr. Hamad? What possible good outcome do you see coming of this fighting?
HAMAD: I think we can reach an end for such a tragedy by political solution, that Israel (unintelligible) should recognize that the Palestinian territory, '67 borders, West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem are occupied territories. We will not be...
BLOCK: That's a very long-term solution, of course, that you're talking about. But in the short term, with this fighting, you have tanks and...
HAMAD: Short term, short term, I know. Because it's short term - OK, I agree that if we have a ceasefire and we reach an agreement here to stop this bloodshed, I think we are not against this.
BLOCK: You're not against reaching an agreement to stop the bloodshed?
HAMAD: No, no, no. No, no.
BLOCK: Ghazi Hamad is deputy foreign minister with Hamas in Gaza City. Mr. Hamad, thank you.
HAMAD: Thank you. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.