Hamas rejects US demands for disarmament

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 19.10.2017 21:33
Updated 19.10.2017 21:34

Palestinian resistance movement Hamas accused the United States of "blatant interference" in Palestinian affairs yesterday after U.S. President Donald Trump's envoy demanded they disarm and recognize Israel in any unity government.

"This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests," senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told French Press Agency (AFP).

He accused Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special representative for international negotiations, of bowing to pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government.

"This statement comes under pressure from the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government and is in line with the Netanyahu statement from two days ago," Naim said.

Earlier Thursday, Greenblatt said if Hamas wants to play a role in any Palestinian government it must renounce violence and commit to peaceful negotiations with Israel. Greenblatt's statement was the first American comment on the advancing reconciliation efforts between the rival Palestinian Fatah and Hamas factions, and echoed Israeli demands.

Hamas and rival party Fatah have agreed a deal that should see the former hand over control of Gaza to the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority by Dec. 1, with talks also expected on forming a unity government.

Israel said Tuesday it would not negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas if the Islamist movement does not disarm, recognize the country and renounce violence.

The move came after two days of negotiations in the Egyptian capital on the governing of the Gaza Strip as part of the most serious effort to date to end the 10-year rift between the rival Palestinian groups.

Under the agreement, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority will regain full control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by Dec. 1, according to a statement from Egypt's intelligence agency, which oversaw the talks. The two factions agreed to allow the unity government to assume responsibility for all of Gaza's border crossings no later than Nov. 1.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been politically divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Fatah, ending a short-lived unity government established after Hamas swept the 2006 legislative elections that were ultimately rejected by Fatah, Israel, and the international community. Hamas has ruled Gaza, while Abbas's Fatah has controlled autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Abbas seeks both territories, along with East Jerusalem, for a Palestinian state, and the division is a major obstacle to any possible peace deal. Israel captured all three areas in the 1967 Six-Days War, although it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Previous agreements for a unity government signed between Hamas and Fatah have failed to yield any concrete breakthroughs. Recent weeks, however, have seen mounting hope that an ongoing Egypt-sponsored reconciliation process will be more successful. Negotiations are now expected to be held on forming a unity government, with the various Palestinian political movements invited to another meeting in Cairo on Nov. 21.

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