Hamas chief says arrests hinder unity

Daily News Egypt
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said on Tuesday that arrests in the West Bank of the group s militants by forces loyal to president Mahmoud Abbas were hindering efforts at reconciliation between the two sides.

Meanwhile, Meshaal, who arrived for unity talks in Cairo, said he perceived a change in tone from the United States toward the Palestinian question after a speech last week by President Barack Obama but that he still wants to see a new US policy.

On Tuesday, West Bank police arrested six Hamas members suspected of planning acts against the Palestinian Authority and seized more than ?1 million from them, a senior official said.

Tensions between Hamas, which controls the besieged Gaza Strip, and the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas have risen, with four policemen, four Hamas fighters and a civilian killed in the West Bank since May 31.

Hamas ousted forces loyal to Abbas from Gaza in a week of deadly street-fighting in June 2007.

Referring to the arrests, Meshaal said these actions were hindering Palestinian reconciliation.

We will not accept that the resistance in the West Bank is disarmed and killed while our land is occupied, he told journalists in Cairo after arriving from Damascus, where he lives in exile.

Earlier, a Hamas delegation arrived in Egypt for talks on reconciliation.

The team, which includes former foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar, was due to hold talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the main go-between in the reconciliation efforts, the official MENA news agency reported.

A Fatah delegation discussed the reconciliation efforts with Suleiman on Sunday.

Egypt, which has hosted several rounds of talks, suggested a July 7 deadline for an agreement, a target that appears increasingly unlikely.

But Egypt insists that things can move forward, particularly after Obama s speech in Cairo on Thursday, in which he called for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Obama s speech paves the way for the resumption of the political process and achieving peace in the region, a senior Egyptian official told MENA.

Speaking to that, Meshaal said we perceived a difference in tone in the line of the administration of Barack Obama on the Middle East conflict. What we are waiting for now is a new policy.

In his speech, Obama reiterated Washington s unbreakable bond with Israel, but vowed not to turn his back on Palestinian aspirations and repeated his call for a halt to Jewish settlements.

Asked if Hamas favored a two-state solution, with Palestinians and Israelis living side by side, Meshaal said Hamas will cooperate with the Arabs and the international community if efforts are tending toward realizing Palestinian interests.

The Arabs and the Palestinians have offered enough. Pressure should now be put on Israel, he added.

Palestinian reconciliation is seen as crucial to efforts to rebuild Gaza following the devastation wrought by Israel s new year offensive, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.

The international community only deals with Abbas West Bank-based leadership and refuses to deal with Hamas, which the European Union and the United States continue to blacklist as a terror group despite its upset victory in 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Obama reiterated in his speech US policy that if it wants to engage, Hamas must renounce violence, accept past accords and recognize Israel s right to exist.

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