Hamas Politburo Chief Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday rejected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s demand that Hamas’s armed wing give up its weapons. Haniyeh’s comments came a day after PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Hamas leaders met in Gaza in a bid to start work on ending the territorial division between the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas has controlled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the territory. “There are two groups of weapons: There are the weapons of the government, the police and security services,” Haniyeh told Egypt's ONTV in an interview in Gaza. “And there are the weapons of the resistance. Regarding the weapons of the resistance, as long as there is a Zionist occupation on Palestinian land, it is the right of the Palestinian people to possess weapons and resist the occupation in all of forms of resistance.” In an interview with Egyptian television on Monday, PA President Abbas categorically rejected anyone possessing weapons other than the PA government and its security services. More specifically, Abbas said he would not allow for the recreation of the “Hezbollah experience” in Gaza. Hezbollah maintains control over a vast army in Lebanon, over which the Lebanese state does not have control. Experts estimate that the Ezzeldin Kassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, is comprised of 25,000 members, who possess thousands of guns, rockets and other weapons. However, Haniyeh said that Hamas is prepared to discuss “how and when to resist” with Fatah and other Palestinian groups. “We in Hamas are ready to dialogue with our brothers in Fatah and the rest of the factions to agree on how to make decisions including that of the decision of resistance,” Haniyeh said. “We have no problem with the decision of resistance being a joint decision.“
In previous attempts to end the West Bank and Gaza’s territorial division, Fatah and Hamas failed to reach an agreement on the fate of Kassam Brigades’ weapons.
One eve of Gaza reconciliation, Hamas frees Fatah men, October 1, 2017. (Reuters)