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My morning with the leaders of Hamas

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in 2018. Spencer Platt/Getty

To much of the outside world, says Ben Hubbard on The Daily, Hamas’s October 7 attack seems like an act of suicide. They knew full well Israel would respond by trying to wipe them out. So what was their thinking? To find out, I went to meet some of the terrorist group’s leaders in Lebanon and Qatar. Its political wing is not that different to any other political party – “they have offices and they have aides, and you call them up, and you take an appointment”. First, I met a group of senior officials at a well-known restaurant in Beirut. Then I went to their headquarters in Doha: a nice villa in an affluent suburb, with “a big wall around it”. Over tea and coffee, they explained their rationale.

They felt that the Palestinian cause had been “fading away” – that no one really cared about it any more, including the Israelis. They said “the most right-wing government in Israeli history” was totally uninterested in talking about a future for the Palestinians. They talked about attacks by settlers in the West Bank on Palestinian communities, and about police raids on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, “one of the holiest sites in Islam”. And they said the “normalisation deals” between Israel and other Arab countries were leaving them adrift. So they decided they had to “do something dramatic to blow up the status quo”.

🎥 What’s becoming clear is that the thousands of Gazan deaths in Israeli airstrikes were an “essential part” of Hamas’s strategy, says Marc Champion in Bloomberg. The group’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, more or less admitted as much on Lebanese TV last month. “The blood of the women, children, and elderly,” he said, “we are the ones who need this blood, so it awakens within us the revolutionary spirit.” Incredibly, the group even says it is up to the UN to protect Gaza’s civilians – even though Hamas governs the territory, and “the first duty of any government is to protect its people”.