Official: Hamas will seek more weapons

 

Cairo, Egypt

Israel and Hamas on Monday resumed indirect discussions over their fragile cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, a top Hamas official said, but he warned that violence could flare again if negotiators did not quickly come to an agreement.

In an interview with reporters in his suburban Cairo villa, Hamas deputy political leader Mousa Abu Marzook said the militant Palestinian group would continue to seek weapons even as an Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo to begin talks over the second stage of a cease-fire agreement reached last week. He also said Hamas would not rule out renewed rocket attacks if Israel decided to attack Iran.

Abu Marzook said the Monday talks marked the second round of negotiations since the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire took effect Wednesday. He said that the session would focus on Hamas's demands to loosen Israel's six-year blockade on the Gaza Strip but warned that protracted negotiations could shatter the delicate truce.

"If they stall too much in any of the issues that have to do with my freedom and breaking the siege, the field is open," he said.

Israel tightly limits the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, including a ban on the import of most construction materials — measures that rights groups and local officials say have crippled Gaza's economy and hindered reconstruction efforts in the wake of a 2008-09 Israeli ground invasion.

Israel also enforces a blockade on Gaza's seaport and a 500-meter buffer zone inside the border, encompassing 17 percent of Gaza's land, in which trespassing Palestinians are often shot, according to the Gisha Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement, an Israeli human rights organization.

Lifting these restrictions are key to Hamas's demands as the negotiations move forward, Abu Marzook said.

Israel and the United States have sworn off direct negotiations with Hamas, which they label a terrorist organization. Hamas and Israel have been negotiating indirectly through Egyptian messengers, Abu Marzook said.

But previous cease-fires have broken down, and the Hamas leader said the group would continue to acquire weapons, even as the two sides struggle to negotiate a long-term peace.

Abu Marzook said Monday that the Palestinian resistance movements must "defend themselves."

Israel has vowed to halt Gaza militants' stockpiling of weapons, including Iranian-made long-range rockets. During the conflict, militants for the first time hit targets near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, showing off newly powerful capabilities that brought threats closer to Israel's population centers.

Israel routinely bombs tunnels that militants use to smuggle weapons, food and other commercial goods from Egypt's poorly policed northern Sinai region. Egyptian guarantees to put a halt to the weapons traffic was a key factor in Israel's willingness to stop its assault on Gaza.

But Abu Marzook said Egypt would not be able to end smuggling across its border.

"There is nothing to be done," he said, adding that weapons would make their way to Gaza no matter what legal barriers are set to keep them out.

Some of those weapons have been from Iran, Hamas leaders have said, suggesting that a relationship that frayed between Hamas and the Islamic republic earlier this year is on the mend.

Ties had suffered after Hamas leaders abandoned their longtime base in Damascus, another close Iranian ally, amid Syria's worsening civil war.

On Monday, Abu Marzook criticized Iran for supporting the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and he urged the Islamic republic to get in line with the democratic sentiments of the Arab Spring.

"Iran must realize that there is a public opinion in the Arab world, so it must remedy its positions so it does not lose the Arab world because of its stances on the region's crises," he said.

But Hamas officials have also signaled in the days since the cease-fire came into effect that the group's relationship with Iran remained strong.

Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal both thanked Iran last week for providing Gaza's fighters with the weapons they used in their latest battle against Israel.

And Abu Marzook did not rule out the possibility that Hamas would use those weapons to back Iran in a war against the Jewish state.

"These hypothetical questions are difficult to answer," he said. Hamas would condemn any Israeli "aggression" on another country. "But how we will act about this aggression — this is something that would undoubtedly be decided in its own time."

The eight-day Israeli assault on Gaza "was like reconnaissance for Iran," he said, because it showed Israel's military playbook.

Abu Marzook said the conflict had demonstrated that Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, who runs the West Bank, was a largely irrelevant figure.

"People eventually head to the actor in the battle," Abu Marzook said, referring to Hamas and its fight in Gaza. "Why would people head toward him?"

- - -

Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet