Hamas says won’t accept Palestinian state in Gaza

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Palestinian resistance group Hamas will not accept a truncated Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip, group spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Abu Zuhri said the so-called “deal of the century” – a U.S. backchannel plan to reach a peace settlement between Palestinians and Israel – aims to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza only.

“We reject this deal, which seeks to undermine the Palestinian cause by taking the issues of Jerusalem and refugees off the table,” he said.

“Our right extends to the whole Palestinian territories, not only the Gaza Strip,” Abu Zuhri stressed. “Our major goal is not only Gaza, but the liberation of all Palestine.”

The U.S. administration has yet to unveil the details of the plan, but Abu Zuhri says the “deal of the century” is rather a plan for regional peace than aiming to solving the Palestinian problem.

“The U.S. administration seeks to normalize the Arab-Israeli ties and make Israel’s existence inside the heart of the Arab region as normal.”

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority has rejected any U.S. mediation since the Donald Trump administration unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since 1967 — might one day serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Gaza protests

Abu Zuhri said the months-long protests staged by Palestinians along Gaza border were part of effort to abort the so-called “deal of the century”.

“Our struggle and sacrifices will make it difficult for those who promote this deal,” he said.

Palestinians have been staging mass protests in Gaza to demand the right to return to their homes and villages in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

Since the rallies began on March 30, more than 240 Palestinians have been martyred — and thousands more injured — by Israeli troops deployed near the buffer zone.

As for a planned foreign tour by Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, Abu Zuhri said the tour would include Russia and several other countries.

Haniyeh received an official invitation from Russia last month to visit Moscow for talks with Russian officials.

“We welcome the Russian invitation,” Abu Zuhri said, adding that Haniyeh’s talks in Moscow would focus on boosting relations between the Palestinian group and Russia.

“Haniyeh’s tour will also include major Arab and Islamic states,” the spokesman said, without giving further details.

No date has been given for Haniyeh’s tour.

Israel truce

Asked about Egypt-brokered talks with Hamas for hammering out a ceasefire deal with Israel, Abu Zuhri said the consultations were “ongoing”.

“Many of our demands have been met,” he said. “Our consultations are ongoing and have not stopped.”

According to observers, the general outlines of the ceasefire involve an easing of Israel’s 12-year blockade of Gaza in return for a halt to mass Palestinian demonstrations near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.

Asked about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that a number of Arab states were seeking to normalize ties with Israel, Abu Zuhri said “we should not be deceived by Netanyahu’s claims”.

“Netanyahu is trying to show that they have the upper hand over the Arab region in an effort to evade the losses caused by the Palestinian resistance.”

He said Netanyahu’s allegations “come to cover his political and partisan crises”.

The Hamas spokesman, however, admitted that Israel has managed to make a breakthrough in relations with some Arab states.

“These relations, however, are still limited,” he said.

In October, Netanyahu visited the Gulf state of Oman, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

“Welcoming Netanyahu in any Arab or Islamic state would give a pretext to the Israeli occupation to continue its crimes against the innocent Palestinian people,” Abu Zuhri stressed.

Major victory

Abu Zuhri termed as a “major victory” the failure of a U.S. draft resolution at the UN General Assembly to condemn Hamas.

Earlier this month, UN General Assembly narrowly rejected a U.S.-sponsored resolution seeking to condemn Hamas.

The resolution, backed strongly by Israel and the U.S., needed a two-thirds majority to pass following an earlier vote in the assembly. The vote ultimately failed to cross the higher threshold, with 87 nations voting in favor and 57 voting against. Thirty-three countries abstained.

“Washington has exercised major pressures on the member states to vote against the Palestinian resistance,” Abu Zuhri said. “Despite this, Hamas managed to fail the American project”.

“The failure to pass this draft was a big achievement for the Palestinian resistance,” the spokesman stressed.

Palestinian rift

The Hamas spokesman criticized a recent threat by President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council (parliament).

Abu Zuhri described Abbas’ threat as “baseless” and “reflects his exclusive mentality that does not believe in partnership and unity”.

Hamas, which has the majority of seats in parliament, argues that Abbas does not have the authority to dissolve the assembly.

“As per the Palestinian Constitution, the parliament has the full power to continue its work until another assembly is elected,” Abu Zuhri said.

There was no comment from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority on Abu Zuhri’s statement.

Hamas and Abbas’ rival Fatah group have been at odds since 2006 when the former swept the Palestinian legislative election.

Tension between the two groups escalated into street fighting in 2007 with Hamas seizing control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah.

Ever since, talks aimed at healing the rift between the two rival movements have been fruitless.

By Ali Abo Rezeg

ANKARA

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