Statements made by Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders and spokesmen following the announcement of the long-term cease-fire agreement with Israel this week serve as a reminder of their true intentions and strategy.
Over the past two months, the two groups, together with several armed factions in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly announced that their main goal was to end the "siege" on the Gaza Strip and build their own airport and seaport.
During the cease-fire talks in Cairo, the Palestinian groups repeatedly and stubbornly insisted that complying with these demands, along with opening all the border crossings with the Gaza Strip, was the only way to end the violence and achieve a long-term cease-fire with Israel.
However, it is important to note that these cease-fire demands are not part of Hamas's or Islamic Jihad's overall strategy, namely to have Israel wiped off the face of the earth.
Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip are not only fighting for an airport and seaport. Nor are they fighting only for the reopening of all border crossings with Israel and Egypt.
During this war, many seem to have forgotten that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are actually fighting to "liberate Jerusalem and all Palestine." The two groups have never recognized Israel's right to exist and continue to oppose any attempt to make peace with the "Zionist entity."
Many foreign journalists who came to cover the war in the Gaza Strip were under the false impression that it was all about improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by opening border crossings and building an airport and seaport. These journalists really believed that once the demands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are accepted, this would pave the way for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Yet these journalists, like many others in the international community, failed to look at the bigger picture or take into consideration the context of conflict. Moreover, most of them did not even seem to be listening to what Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been stating before and after the war -- that their real goal is to "liberate all Palestine."
Operation Protective Edge may have ended, but the dream to destroy Israel is still alive. Even if Hamas and Islamic Jihad eventually get their own airport and seaport, it is obvious that the two groups are now more determined than ever to pursue their fight to eliminate Israel, especially in light of the fact that they feel they have emerged from the war triumphant.
Masked Hamas gunmen celebrate their "victory" over Israel before the international media this week. (Image source: Facebook/Palestinian Information Center)
The Egypt-brokered cease-fire may achieve some calm for Israelis and Palestinians in the foreseeable future, particularly in the aftermath of the severe blow Hamas and Islamic Jihad suffered as a result of Israel's massive military operation.
Indeed, Hamas and its allies will now be busy rebuilding the damage in the Gaza Strip. But they will also continue to raise new generations of Palestinians on glorification of terrorism and jihad, with the hope of achieving the destruction of Israel, which they view as an alien body planted by colonialist powers in the Middle East.
To understand the true intentions of Hamas and its allies, it is sufficient to follow the statements made by their leaders after the cease-fire announcement earlier this week. Evidently, these statements show that Hamas and Islamic Jihad see their "victory" in the Gaza Strip as a first step toward "liberating all Palestine." They also show that these groups intend to use the new cease-fire to continue preparations and amass more weapons for what they call "the mother of all battles - liberating Palestine."
Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah was one of the first figures to spell out his organization's real intentions. Hours after the cease-fire announcement, the Lebanon-based Shalah declared: "The war is not over. It will continue in other means and methods."
He went on to warn Palestinians against resuming negotiations with Israel, saying the Oslo Accords were now "buried under the rubble of the Gaza Strip" and Palestinians should as of now only endorse the "path of resistance."
The following day, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh crawled out of the bunker he had retreated to during the war to declare that "Gaza is now preparing for the battle of comprehensive liberation."
He told Hamas supporters during a "victory" rally in Gaza City that "Gaza has paved the way for reaching Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque."
To his credit, Haniyeh has never concealed Hamas's desire to destroy Israel. Only days before the war, he said in a speech before schoolchildren attending a Hamas summer camp that his movement's strategy "is to liberate the land of Palestine." He added: "Whether we are in the (Palestinian) government or outside, we will continue to educate and call for the liberation of all Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian state on all the land of Palestine."
For those who do not know, Haniyeh is in fact just repeating Hamas's charter, which does not accept Israel's right to exist on any part of what is perceived as Muslim-owned land.
Another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, went even farther by calling for the establishment of a "Palestine Liberation Army" in wake of the "victory" scored by his movement and other Palestinian groups during the war.
Further evidence that this war was not about border crossings or improving living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip was also provided by a spokesman for Hamas and several Palestinian groups that participated in the fighting against Israel.
At a press conference one day after the cease-fire announcement, Abu Obaida, spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin al-Qassam, declared: "Gaza won because it has revived the hopes of 1.5 billion Arabs and Muslims that the road to Jerusalem is now open and all we need is to be united and have a will."
So for Hamas and its allies, the war in the Gaza Strip is not just about the closure of border crossings or freedom of movement. Instead, they see the war in the Gaza Strip as part of their strategy to destroy Israel. What they are actually saying is, "Give us open borders and an airport and seaport so we can use them to prepare for the next war against Israel."