The head of Hamas says "no one" can force it to disarm or recognize Israel after the US demanded the resistance movement meet those conditions as part of an emerging Palestinian unity government.
"No one in the universe can disarm us. On the contrary, we will continue to have the power to protect our citizens," Yahya Sinwar said on Thursday. "No one has the ability to extract from us recognition of the occupation," he added.
His remarks came after US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, said any Palestinian government must recognize Israel and disarm Hamas.
Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, accused the Trump administration of “blatant interference in Palestinian affairs.”
“It is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests,” he said.
Naim also said Greenblatt was bowing to pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing regime.
Netanyahu’s cabinet said in a statement on Tuesday that Tel Aviv would not engage in negotiations with a future Palestinian unity government that had the backing of Hamas.
Both Hamas and its Ramallah-based rival Fatah were quick to brush off Netanyahu’s threats, with the Palestinian Authority saying such a hostile stance would not affect the nation’s resolve to pursue its goals.
Fatah, led by Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas have been at odds ever since the latter scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in 2006. Hamas governs the Gaza Strip while Fatah has set up offices in the West Bank.
Last week, however, Fatah and Hamas signed a provisional unity agreement in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, in which the latter agreed to dissolve its administrative committee in Gaza.
The ongoing negotiations are taking place within the framework of a 2011 agreement between the two sides, under which 3,000 Fatah security officers would join a Gaza police force over the course of a year.
Under that deal, Hamas’ 25,000-strong armed wing, Ezzedine al-Qassam, which has defended Gaza against three deadly Israeli wars over the past decade, would maintain its position.