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Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Friday said Hamas would never recognize Israel's right to exist, rejecting a key demand of the international community and signaling further deadlock in efforts to forge a Palestinian coalition government.
Haniyeh's declaration was likely to increase tensions with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been urging Hamas to recognize Israel as a way to ending Western sanctions against the Palestinians. Hamas has refused, and talks over forming a power-sharing government with Abbas' Fatah movement have stalled over the issue.
"Israel might have secured the recognition of some of our people, and some in the Arab world and in the international community. It is now seeking another recognition, Islamic recognition," Haniyeh said in a sermon after Friday prayers in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. "I say we will not give it this card."
Hamas will not recognize Israel "no matter for how long," he said, adding that the group will not give up its armed struggle against the Jewish state. "Resistance is a legitimate right ... We will not give up our right to defend ourselves."
Earlier, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said the movement did not want to rule the PA alone, and that the group was interested in establishing a government with Fatah, according to Israel Radio.
Mashaal added, however, that such a government would need to take its orders from the Palestinians and not from the US or Israel.
Mashaal okays state with 1967 borders
At a press conference in Damascus, Mashaal announced that Hamas would not submit and would not recognize Israel. He called for Arab nations to break the siege on the Palestinian people and to hold a summit meeting to set up a timetable for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. According to Mashaal, the Palestinians would never give up on their settlement rights.
Regarding kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, Mashaal said Hamas had no interest in holding the soldier, and that he was prepared to release him as part of a prisoner swap, as had been done in the past.