The exiled chief of Hamas Khaled Meshaal said Wednesday that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza without imposing a truce on Hamas is a victory "for the resistance", telling the international community that time has come to lift a ban on contacts with his Palestinian Islamist movement.
"After three weeks of aggression, the Zionist enemy (Israel) was forced to cease fire and withdraw (from the Gaza Strip) without achieving any of their goals," Meshaal said, in a speech aired on Arab satellite televisions.
"Gaza has emerged victorious, the resistance has triumphed," he said, while urging Hamas fighters to stay vigilant "with their finger on the trigger because the enemy is sly and will want to avenge itself."
"Our victory is a clear one and it is a repetition of Hezbollah's victory over the same enemy back in 2006," he added, in reference to Israel's 33-day war on Lebanon's Hezbollah group in the summer of 2006.
"For the past three years, they have been trying to get rid of Hamas ... especially by imposing a blockade," he said. "Now it is time to start to talk to Hamas, which is a legitimate force."
Meshaal called for a lifting of Israel's blockade, which has been force since it seized power in the territory in mid-2007, in the wake of the Jewish state's 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip that ended on Sunday with a ceasefire.
"We achieved our aims by forcing the enemy to halt its aggression and to withdraw," he said on the day the last Israeli soldiers pulled out after a battle which killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, including some 400 children.
"But two more battles are left to win: to lift the blockade and open the crossing points (with Gaza), especially at Rafah which is our gateway to the world," said Meshaal, who is exiled in Damascus.
Meshaal also launched a scathing attack on the Palestinian Authority, without naming names, and urged donors to give Gaza reconstruction money to the Islamist group or handle the rebuilding work directly.
"Arab and Muslim countries that pledged generous donations to rebuild the Gaza Strip should either give the money to the legitimate government of my brother Ismail Haniya or handle the reconstruction works directly," he said, referring to the ousted Palestinian government.
"But they should never give the donations to the corrupt officials whom we all know only too well," Meshaal said in an implicit reference to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas.
Washington, European Union and Israel consider Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of the Jewish state, as a terrorist organization and has boycotted it, opting to speak to Abbas.
But earlier on Wednesday, Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair said the diplomatic Quartet would deal with Hamas if the movement accepted a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"The Quartet has always said it is prepared to talk to Hamas provided that Hamas is part of a government that is on terms that are consistent with the two-state solution," said Blair.