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Hamas reiterates: armed wing not up for discussion in reconciliation talks

Oct. 7, 2017 8:27 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2017 4:23 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Hamas movement spokesperson reiterated Saturday that the future of the group's armed wing is not up for discussion in upcoming reconciliation talks with the Fatah movement, scheduled to take place in Cairo on Tuesday.

Hazem Qassem told Ma’an that “the resistance’s weapons are legal. They are here to protect Palestinians and free their lands (from Israeli occupation) -- therefore, this should not be an issue to discuss.”

The Hamas spokesperson said that in fact, what should be discussed is the "enhancement" of Hamas' power as an armed resistance movement.

However, Qassem said that all subjects that "obstructing the reconciliation" would be discussed on Tuesday, including the National Consensus Government taking control of the Gaza Strip; later shifting the focus of reconciliation from Gaza to the West Bank; and ultimately holding presidential, legislative, and National Council elections to rule both parts of the occupied territory.

Hamas said on Thursday that the Palestinian National Consensus Government had officially taken over from the movement as the administrative authority in the besieged Gaza Strip, which has been under Hamas’ de facto rule since 2007.

Fatah, the leading party of the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas have been embroiled in conflict since Hamas' election victory in legislative elections in 2006, sparking a violent conflict between the two movements, with Hamas consolidating its control over the territory a year later.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told the cabinet, which had convened for the first time in three years in Gaza City on Tuesday, that his government is going to assume full responsibility of all sectors of life in Gaza “in full cooperation and partnership with all the Palestinian factions and forces.”

However, Hamas' control over security and its nature as an armed resistance movement has constituted an obstacle for the PA, which cooperates with Israel on security-related matters, as laid out in the Oslo Accords -- a policy that Hamas has repeatedly condemned, accusing the PA of targeting Hamas members in the West Bank through politically-motivated arrests and in coordination with Israel.

Since Hamas invited the consensus government to take control of Gaza, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said he would not be prepared to accept Hamas keeping its military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. “I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon” in Gaza, Abbas said in an interview with Egyptian media. Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government but retains its own army.

Abbas said that despite his “strong desire to see this reconciliation through,” this would not happen unless the PA “ruled the Gaza Strip just as it does the West Bank.”

“The border crossings, security, and all the ministries must be under our control,” he was quoted as saying. Hamas, however, has said multiple times that giving up arms is not up for discussion in the reconciliation process.
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