By Matt Watts

LONDON - A senior Hamas leader has refused to acknowledge that his group killed civilians in Israel during the October 7 attack, claiming only conscripts were targeted.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, the group’s deputy political leader, told the BBC that “women, children and civilians were exempt” from Hamas’s attacks.

His claims are in clear contrast to extensive evidence of Hamas militants shooting unarmed adults and children during the attacks that sparked Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Israel says more than 1,400 people were killed by Hamas, a proscribed terrorist group in the UK, in the 7 October attacks, most of them civilians.

Challenged by the BBC about the attack of 7 October, Mr Marzouk, who is subject to an asset freeze in the UK under counter-terrorism regulations, claimed that Mohamed el-Deif, the leader of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades military wing, had ordered his men to spare civilians.

“El-Deif clearly told his fighters ‘don’t kill a woman, don’t kill a child and don’t kill an old man’,” he said.

Reservist soldiers were, he said, “targeted”. He maintained that only “conscripts [...] or soldiers” were killed and women, children and civilians were “exempt”.

When asked if Hamas’s political wing, based in Qatar, had known of preparations for the attack, the deputy leader said that the armed wing “don’t have to consult with the political leadership. There is no need.”

He said the scores of hostages taken by Hamas from Israel during its attack would not be freed until “fighting” in Gaza stopped.

The political wing of often portrays itself as being remote from the military forces in Gaza. The UK government sees no distinction, proscribing the Hamas political wing as a terrorist organisation in 2021.