Hamas Will Oppose Israeli-Palestinian Agreements, Spokesman Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Hamas will oppose any agreement reached in negotiations between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Israel, a spokesman for the group said in a recent television interview.

The Hamas spokesman told Iranian television that Abbas -- viewed as a "moderate" by U.S. and Israeli leaders -- does not have full authority to engage in negotiations with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has agreed to meet with Abbas every two weeks to discuss security matters and what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls "political horizons."

But Hamas spokesman Ayman Muhammad Saleh Taha called the Olmert-Abbas meetings "pointless" and said they "do nothing to further the Palestinian cause."

Taha, formerly imprisoned in an Israeli jail, is now a member of a committee that's supposed to prevent conflicts between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah faction, which joined a Hamas-dominated unity government two months ago.

According to Taha, the platform of the Hamas-Fatah government is not the platform of Hamas itself and represents "the lowest common denominator agreed upon by the Palestinian factions."

Hamas considers itself the "spearhead" in the conflict against Israel and "will not relinquish its platform of resistance," Taha said in an interview on Iranian Arabic television two weeks ago. Resistance is a euphemism for terrorism.

Excerpts from the interview were provided in a report from the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, part of a nongovernmental organization in Tel Aviv.

Taha said Hamas opposes Abbas-Olmert negotiations -- "and everything that will come out of them." While former P.A. Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar and head of Legislative Council Dr. Khalil al-Hayya expressed confidence in the unity government, they "had reservations about giving the president (Abbas) full authority in the negotiations."

Taha was quoted as saying that Hamas "will not accept any negotiations with the occupier on the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people."

Both Israel and the U.S. are backing Abbas as a "moderate" force among Palestinians.

But some Israeli critics say that Abbas' Fatah faction is no different than Hamas in its ideology, and they note that Abbas has done nothing to dismantle terror organizations as he pledged to do two years ago. Others say even if Abbas has good intentions, he is too weak to back up or follow through on any agreement he makes.

In related news, the Palestinian News Agency Ramattan reported on Sunday that a unit of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Abbas' Fatah faction, has launched an operation to counter what it described as Israeli attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Abu-Tha'ir, a spokesman for the group, was quoted as saying that the campaign would include "martyrdom" operations (suicide attacks) as well as rocket launchings at Israeli towns.

He urged all factions to join together to carry out attacks "so as to burn all the settlers" in Ashkelon, Sderot and Yad Mordechai. (All three are Jewish cities inside Israel proper but close to the border with the Gaza Strip.)

Meanwhile, Israeli army chief Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi told Israeli government ministers on Sunday that Hamas is continuing its military build-up. Eventually, ground operations will be the only way to stop it, he said.

Olmert ruled out a full-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip last week after Hamas claimed responsibility for launching dozens of rockets and mortars at Israel, while it was celebrating its Independence Day.

Hamas also said it was pulling out of a five-month old ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip but later retracted the threat at the urging of Egyptian officials.

But the ceasefire doesn't mean much. Ashkenazi said that during that truce period, some 250 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel and there have been a number of attempts to infiltrate into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

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