Reuters: Palestinian militant group Hamas will step up its attacks on Israeli targets if the Jewish state attacks its key ally in the region, Iran, Hamas chief-in-exile Khaled Meshaal said on Thursday.
By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN, Dec 15 (Reuters) – Palestinian militant group Hamas will step up its attacks on Israeli targets if the Jewish state attacks its key ally in the region, Iran, Hamas chief-in-exile Khaled Meshaal said on Thursday.
“If Israel attacks Iran then Hamas will widen and increase its confrontation of Israelis inside Palestine,” Meshaal told reporters in Tehran, where he has held three days of talks with top political and security officials.
The United States and Israel accuse Iran of arming and funding militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Iran says it only gives moral support to the Palestinian groups.
Meshaal also backed Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, which the United States and the European Union fear is to acquire nuclear bomb. Iran denies having any atomic arms ambitions.
“If we assume that Iran has a military nuclear programme, what is wrong with that when Israel and others have them?,” said Meshaal, whose remarks were translated from Arabic into Farsi.
Israeli officials have warned they could try to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities in the same way that Israel bombed Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor in 1981. Iran has said it will retaliate if attacked.
Meshaal said it was the duty of Hamas to support Iran, in case of any attack by Israel.
“Hamas and other Islamic groups will stand by Iran’s side. We are defenders of Iran’s obvious (nuclear) right,” he said.
PRESIDENT’S BRAVE REMARKS
Meshaal praised Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent comments in which he called the Holocaust a myth and said Israel should be moved to Europe or North America.
“Those were brave and true remarks and it was what the Islamic nations say, especially Palestinians,” he said.
“The Islamic world should not pay the price for the Jews’ problems. It is unfair,” he said. “Iran is our source of pride.”
Ahmadinejad’s remarks were widely condemned by international leaders who called them unacceptable.
Meshaal said the expiry of a ceasefire with Israel, which ends at the end of 2005, meant entering a new stage of confrontation.
“It will be transition from calm situation to legitimate confrontation,” he said.
The ceasefire was agreed in February by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as part of efforts to curb fighting that started in 2000 and smooth Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Gaza strip.
Abbas called on Palestinian militant factions this month to renew their commitment to the 9-month-old truce with Israel.