CAIRO, Egypt – Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal during a television interview aired Sunday backed away from a six month deadline he set the day before for achieving a Palestinian state or else the militant group would launch a new uprising against Israel. But he warned if negotiations were ignored, Palestinians would "carry on their struggle."
Mashaal, who spoke during a taped telephone call-in show on a state-run Egyptian television station, said Hamas would be willing to give negotiations eight months or a year. He was responding to a question from Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian Information Minister and member of the more moderate Fatah Party, who said it was not logical for Palestinians to be talking about an uprising.
"I said six months, but do you want more than six months? Maybe we can take eight months or a year," Mashaal said. But he warned "if the door is sealed and the horizon is closed (for creating a Palestinian state) then we have to look for another choice. We will impose our will on the Zionist enemy and the international community."
"The most important thing is that the Palestinian people will not give up their right. They will not surrender and will carry on their struggle," he said during the taped program on Channel One.
Mashaal on Saturday had said Hamas was willing to allow negotiations with Israel but warned of a new uprising if talks failed to reach a deal for a Palestinian state within six months. It was the strongest confirmation by Mashaal that the militant group was willing to give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of Hamas' rival Fatah, the chance to try to negotiate with Israel, but it also was the first time he set a deadline with a specific threat of a new uprising.
Mashaal's remarks come as a fledging cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian factions took effect early Sunday. Rocket fired from Gaza had died down after the cease-fire began at day break, raising hopes for an end to five months of violence and a new opening toward peace talks.
The two main parts of the Palestinian government, Hamas and Fatah, publicly backed the truce, and Palestinian officials said Mashaal played a role in speeding up the agreement.
Mashaal did not mention the cease-fire during the interview but it was unclear when the program was taped.