BEIRUT, Lebanon — A top Hamas official insisted Thursday in an interview with NBC News that the leadership was open to a "complete compromise" deal to free all the hostages the militant group has been holding for nearly a month.
But Ghazi Hamad, a senior member of Hamas’s political bureau who has recently and repeatedly threatened to launch fresh terror attacks against the Jewish state, also made a demand the Israelis are sure to reject: that Israel "release all the prisoners from the Israeli detention centers."
"We want these people to go home," Hamad said. "And, also, we want our prisoners now to go home. So I think we are ready now to have complete compromise, complete a deal, in order to receive all the hostages, either military or civilians."
Hamad spoke to NBC News less than a week after talks to free some of the 239 hostages that Hamas seized on Oct. 7, when it launched a deadly surprise attack on Israel that ignited the current war, broke down.
Israel is holding 5,000 Palestinians prisoner, including 160 children, the United Nations reported in July. Of those, approximately 1,100 were detained without charge or trial, the United Nations said.
Critics of Israel have also accused the Jewish state of turning Gaza into an “open-air prison” by sealing off the borders of the Palestinian territory where more than 2 million people are packed into a sliver of land roughly the size of Philadelphia.
During his interview with NBC News, Hamad called on Israel to halt its aggression against the Gaza Strip. But last week, Hamad told Lebanese TV channel LBC that Hamas “must remove” the Jewish state and that Hamas was prepared to repeat its Oct. 7 operation “a second, a third, a fourth” time.
Pressed by NBC News to explain Hamas' conflicting calls for a cease-fire while also pledging to keep attacking Israel, Hamad replied: "What do you want us to do? To stop?"
"No, I am talking about we want to continue (fighting) against the occupation," Hamad said. "This is our legal right to fight against the occupation. It is according to international law. According to all of the regulations and the law. In Europe, you fight against the Nazis."
Hamas has frequently compared the treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis to the genocide committed by the Nazis, who murdered 6 million Jews before and during World War II.
When asked what Hamas would do in return for Israel halting its attack on Gaza, Hamad said, "We want to stop aggression and killing and the slaughters on our people."
"And after that, we can talk about everything about hostages, about the prisoners, about everything, but first, they have to stop the aggression," he said of the Israelis.
Earlier Thursday, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer pushed back on calls for a cease-fire. "We have to free Gaza from Hamas," Dermer said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Palestinian health officials say more than 9,000 people have been killed since Israel launched its offensive against Hamas positions in Gaza.
Documents exclusively obtained last month by NBC News show that Hamas deliberately targeted elementary schools and a youth center in an Israeli kibbutz when it attacked Israel, killing some 1,400 people, including children and babies.
Hamad insisted that was never their "intention."
"Within our religion in Islam, it is prohibited to harm or to kill any civilians," Hamad said. "But what happened maybe in the first day that, that when people went inside, and there is a wide area, there’s people, there’s some complication there."
Hamad spoke to NBC News amid fears that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah will announce Friday that his Iranian-backed terrorist organization intends to attack Israel from its bases in Lebanon in support of Hamas.
Nasrallah has been unusually quiet since the Oct. 7 attacks, even as most leaders throughout the region have commented extensively on the Hamas terrorist attacks and Israel’s ensuing bombardment of the Gaza Strip and attacks on the West Bank.
Hezbollah’s announcement earlier this week that Nasrallah could break his silence for the first time in nearly a month sent a wave of anticipation through the Middle East — particularly as Iran-backed groups ramp up their attacks on American and Israeli targets.
Asked what he expects Nasrallah will say, Hamad said only, "I think the message of Hezbollah, all the time, they support the policy and origins of resistance and support the Palestinian people fighting against occupation."
Matt Bradley reported from Beirut, Lebanon, Corky Siemaszko from New York City.