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Hamas says 'no one' can force it to disarm

Yahya Sinwar was elected as the head of Hamas earlier this year. [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 October, 2017

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Yahya Sinwar said that "no one" can force Hamas to disarm or recognise Israel after the US demanded it meet those conditions as part of a unity deal.

Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip said on Thursday that "no one" can force the group to disarm or recognise Israel after the United States demanded it meet those conditions as part of an emerging unity government.

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement last week to end a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo, with President Mahmoud Abbas calling it a "final" accord.

Israel responded to the deal by vowing it would not negotiate with a unity government that includes Hamas unless it agreed to a list of demands, including recognising Israel and disarming.

"No one in the universe can disarm us. On the contrary, we will continue to have the power to protect our citizens," Hamas's Gaza head Yahya Sinwar said during a speech to Palestinian youths.

"No one has the ability to extract from us recognition of the occupation."

The 50-year-old, who established the movement's security and intelligence network, was elected as the new head of Hamas in Gaza earlier this year.

He was sentenced to serve four life sentences in 1988 before being released in October 2011 under an agreement to exchange more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the release of Gilad Shalit – an Israeli soldier captured five years earlier.

"We are freedom fighters and revolutionaries for the freedom of our people. We fight the occupation according to international and humanitarian law," Sinwar added.

Earlier in the day, a top aide to US President Donald Trump demanded that an emerging Palestinian government recognise Israel and disarm Hamas as part of a recent unity deal.

Senior Hamas officials condemned his comments as "blatant interference" in Palestinian affairs and accused the United States of adopting Israeli positions.

The comments, roughly in line with principles set out by the Quartet for Middle East peace, were Washington's first detailed response to the Palestinian reconciliation deal.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), an umbrella group of Palestinian parties which Hamas is not part of, has recognised Israel.

Hamas has not and is blacklisted as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union.

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