Hamas on Thursday dismissed claims that its Damascus- based leader, Khaled Mashaal, had ordered the movement’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, to stop armed attacks against Israel.

The statement came in response to a report in Haaretz that Mashaal had instructed his men to cease attacks on Israeli targets.

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The report claimed that Mashaal issued the order “based on understandings” he had reached with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during their recent talks in Cairo.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum described the report as “trivial,” saying it did not even merit a response.

An Israeli official said he had heard of no such order and that the report made him smile in disbelief. He said the rocket and mortar attacks over the past few days could not have happened without the acquiescence of the Hamas leadership.

“Hamas is not a political association that uses terrorism as a tactic,” the official said. “Hamas is terrorist to the core.”

Barhoum said that Palestinians had a “legitimate right” to engage in armed resistance against Israel in order to “defend themselves and their lands.”

According to Barhoum, claims that Hamas had abandoned the armed struggle “reflect the state of despair that the Israeli government is facing as a result of the firmness of the Palestinian resistance.”

Hamas’s Interior Minister Fathi Hammad told a visiting Tunisian delegation of supporters that the Palestinians would “pursue the path of resistance against Israeli occupation.”

He said that Hamas would never recognize Israel, or make any concessions on the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to their original homes inside Israel.

Meanwhile, Qatar has reportedly offered Jordan a package of benefits in exchange for Amman agreeing to host Hamas in its territory.

According to a report on Channel 2 Thursday night, Qatari leaders told a delegation of Hamas officials that they would reward the Jordanians with natural gas and much-needed funds if they agreed to shelter the exiled leadership.

The report came amid rumors that Hamas was looking to leave its current home in exile, Damascus, due to instability stemming from the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Gil Hoffman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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