Hamas chief Mashaal rules out disarmament
August 30, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
DOHA, Qatar--Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal on Thursday rejected any attempt to disarm his Palestinian Islamist movement in Gaza as demanded by Israel, saying the group's weapons were "sacred."
"The weapons of the resistance are sacred and we will not accept that they be on the agenda" of future negotiations with Israel, Mashaal told a news conference in Doha where he lives in exile.
Israel has consistently linked the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, devastated during its 50-day war with Hamas that ended on Tuesday, to the territory's demilitarization.
But Mashaal insisted that Hamas will not lay down its arms.
"The issue is not up for negotiations. No one can disarm Hamas and its resistance," he said of the Palestinian fighters.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Hamas achieved none of its demands by the time a "permanent" cease-fire came into effect at 1600 GMT Tuesday.
Under the deal, Israel will ease restrictions on the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, and it extended the offshore area open to Palestinian fishermen.
But talks on crunch issues such as Hamas's demands for a port and an airport and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel's calls to disarm militant groups, will be delayed until negotiators return to Cairo within the coming month.
Mashaal said his group's weaponry "guarantees that our demands will not be overlooked," although he acknowledged that not all its conditions for a cease-fire had been met.
"Not all our demands have been satisfied ... but an important part," he said, referring to the easing of Israel's blockade of the impoverished territory.
The Hamas leader called for Egypt, which he praised for mediating the truce, to open its Rafah crossing with Gaza. "It is the duty of our brothers in Egypt to quickly open Rafah," he said.
Both Israel and Hamas have hailed the truce as a "victory."
The seven-week conflict claimed the lives of at least 2,140 Palestinians, more than 70 percent of them civilians according to the United Nations, and 64 soldiers and six civilians on the Israeli side.