National unity 'best weapon' against occupation: Hamas
National unity is the most effective weapon in the Palestinian arsenal with which to confront Israel's decades-long occupation, Ali Baraka, Hamas's representative in Lebanon has said.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Baraka said Hamas "is now at a stage of national liberation that makes it essential to achieve national unity with a view to resuming the Palestinian resistance -- the Intifada -- against the Zionist occupation".
He went on to voice hope that inter-Palestinian reconciliation would lead to "greater national unity, a lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip and the cancellation of recent measures taken against Gaza by [Palestinian] President Mahmoud Abbas".
- TENTATIVE STEPS
Recent days have seen Palestine's two main political factions, Gaza-based Hamas and the West Bank-based Fatah, take tentative steps towards reconciliation following ten years of intense rivalry.
After Hamas dissolved a committee tasked with administering Gaza -- a move on which Abbas had conditioned reconciliation -- the Palestinian president and Fatah leader this week sent his government, for the first time, to the Gaza Strip.
In a landmark move Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah held his first-ever Cabinet meeting in the blockaded enclave since the Palestinian unity government was drawn up in 2014.
Based in Ramallah, the so-called unity government's jurisdiction has remained largely confined to the West Bank, while Hamas has continued to govern Gaza since it wrested the territory from Fatah in mid-2007.
Tuesday also saw the arrival to Gaza of Egyptian intelligence chief Khaled Fawzi, who held talks with Hamas officials and members of the unity government after meeting with Abbas in Ramallah earlier the same day.
Yet despite the signs of warming relations between the two rival factions, the Ramallah government has yet to reverse any of the sanctions it has recently imposed on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
In remarks made following his Tuesday cabinet meeting, Hamdallah said Fatah was still awaiting the outcome of Fatah-Hamas talks slated to be held next Tuesday in Cairo.
In his comments to Anadolu Agency, Baraka voiced hope that the sought-for reconciliation would extend to the Fatah-run West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas members in the West Bank are being pursued by the [Fatah-run] Palestinian Authority and its security services," he said.
"Hopefully, reconciliation will usher in a new era of national unity marked by the reconstitution of state institutions, especially those associated with the [Fatah-led] Palestine Liberation Organization," he added.
"Once we have reconciled, we can confront the Zionist occupation, which continues to strive to Judaize Jerusalem and build more [Jewish-only] settlements in the West Bank, where facts are imposed on the ground with a view to preventing the establishment of a future Palestinian state," Baraka asserted.
Hamas, he went on, "has sought to alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza by responding to Egyptian [mediation] efforts and meeting President Abbas's demand to dissolve the administrative committee so as to allow the unity government to assume [political and administrative] responsibility for the Gaza Strip".
- EGYPT TALKS
Baraka confirmed that the group planned to hold talks with Fatah next week in the Egyptian capital to pave the way for the anticipated handover.
"Hamas and Fatah officials will meet next week in Cairo to assess the latest developments in hopes of overcoming all remaining obstacles to reconciliation," he said.
"Afterward, we plan to hold an extensive meeting attended by all Palestinian factions that signed on to the 2011 Cairo agreement," he added.
On May 4, 2011, Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal following weeks of talks, also held under Egyptian auspices.
The following year, after high-level talks in Qatar, the two sides agreed to form a unity government -- to be headed up by Abbas -- before holding new parliamentary polls.
The terms of that agreement, however, were never implemented, due largely to outstanding differences -- both political and ideological -- between the two factions.
Baraka expressed hope that the upcoming talks in Cairo would lead to a new agreement for a viable unity government and set dates for holding Palestinian general elections.
On the contentious issue of Hamas's formidable weapons arsenal, Baraka said: "Fatah understands that the Palestinian people are engaged in a struggle for national liberation and that the weapons of the resistance cannot be abandoned as long as we remain under Israeli occupation."
Hamas's arsenal, he asserted, "is not up for discussion".
He also said that, within the context of any new unity government, Hamas would demand a role in Palestinian decision-making, both political and military.
"It's unacceptable that Hamas sacrifices its martyrs and leads the [armed] resistance, while political decisions are made by a single individual or faction," he said, referring to Abbas and his influential Fatah movement.