Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said on Wednesday that Palestine is "hallowed ground" and that his organization will never recognize Israel.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Zahar said that Palestinians will not give up on their right to Palestine, while recognizing the rule of Poles and Ethiopians in their land.

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Zahar added that this should not prevent Israel from negotiating with Hamas, pointing out that Israel negotiated for captive soldier Gilad Schalit's release despite the fact that Hamas never recognized "the Israeli enemy."

"Talks are a means, but recognition is a matter of principle," Zahar told Al Jazeera.

Hamas and Fatah plan to sign a unity agreement in Cairo on Wednesday, ending a four-year feud between the two main Palestinian movements that remain ideologically and geographically divided.

Senior Fatah Central Committee member and PA negotiator Nabil Shaath said in an interview with Israel Radio Wednesday that Hamas should not be asked to recognize Israel.

Russia and "many others agree with us that the old rules of the quartet were not logical, and are not workable," Shaath said. "They have no place" in the current formula anymore, he added, "Stop asking Hamas."

To make his point, the Fatah official asked whether Israel would be ready to recognize Hamas.

Regarding continued security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Shaath said, "I would like to see the two governments continue the relationships necessary to run the country," adding that PA security forces would continue to prevent violence against Israel.

Also speaking with Israel Radio, Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister in Gaza Razi Hamed said that Hamas wants peace, but that "the occupation is the root of all [the Palestinians'] problems." He added that Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state within pre-1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital.

However, he said, in order for peace to take place, Palestinian refugees must be allowed to "return to their homes" in Israel.

More important than anything, Hamed said, is unity between Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, speaking ahead of the official signing of a reconciliation agreement between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah scheduled to take place before noon on Wednesday.

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