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Israel-Hamas war: Militant group willing to disarm if Palestinian state is established, Hamas officials say

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Palestinian Hamas militants are seen during a military display in the Bani Suheila district on July 20, 2017 in Gaza City, Gaza.


Some Hamas officials warn that the militant group could abandon armed struggle against Israel if the Palestinians gain an independent state in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

The message suggests a softening of Hamas’s stance, as its fate hangs in the balance with Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, which Hamas ruled before the war. The Palestinian militant group has long called for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Basem Naim, a member of Hamas’ Istanbul-based political bureau, told CNN on Thursday that the group would agree to disarm if an independent Palestinian state was created.

“If an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, while preserving the right of return of refugees, (is created), Al Qassam could be integrated into (a future) national army,” he said, referring to the armed branch of the group.

Hamas has traditionally rejected a two-state solution that would see a Palestinian state established alongside Israel and has instead advocated the creation of a Palestinian state throughout historic Palestine which today encompasses Israel, the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem- Is occupied and Gaza.

Mustafa Barghouti, president of the Palestinian National Initiative, said he was not aware that Hamas had offered to lay down arms before, but said it would be an important decision if it happened.

“It’s significant in the sense that Palestinians are resisting the occupation because there is an occupation,” he told CNN. “If the occupation does not exist, they do not need to resist it,” he said, referring to Israel’s military control over the territories captured in 1967, where millions of Palestinians live. .

Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said that demanding the return of Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel would be a failure because it would amount to “destruction of the State of Israel. where Jews are the majority.

He called Hamas’ offer a public relations stunt aimed at Western countries.

“They see that there is a lot of support in the Western world (for the Palestinians)… and they are trying to show that they are the good guys, that Israel is the bad guy, and that Israel will say no,” he said. he declared.

The United States and European states could use this to ask Israel “to give them a chance,” he said, but Israel will likely take the gesture “with a grain of salt.”

The Netanyahu government vowed to eliminate Hamas after it carried out an attack on Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping 250 others.

Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya told The Associated Press in Istanbul on Wednesday that the group would accept “a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with international resolutions.” “.

Israel conquered the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 war. These territories are considered by international law and most of the international community to be occupied, and are where the Palestinians want to establish a future state. . Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long opposed such a prospect, arguing that it would endanger his country’s security.

Hayyah also told AP that Hamas would join the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to form a unified government for Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas has refrained from joining the PLO, a grouping of Palestinian factions that signed peace deals with it in the 1990s.

Barghouti said Hamas had indicated as early as 2007, when it led a Palestinian government of national unity, that it was ready to accept a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. Hamas, he added, also favors joining the PLO, but such a move would not automatically mean recognition of Israel or the Oslo Accords that the PLO signed with it in the 1990s.

Hamas has not issued an official statement outlining the concessions touted by its officials, and it is unclear whether statements made by its officials abroad reflect the thinking of its military wing on the ground in Gaza.

When asked whether Hayyah’s statement to AP amounted to a change in Hamas’ position, Naim told CNN that his remarks reflected the group’s message since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Israel has so far failed to achieve its stated goal of eliminating Hamas from the Gaza Strip, with no leaders of the group captured or killed, but it has significantly reduced its military capabilities and ability to governing the gang as its bombing campaign leaves the enclave. in ruins.

Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told a news conference in the Qatari capital Doha that Hamas was prepared to operate only as a political party once a Palestinian state is established, citing meetings between the group and Turkish officials.

He called on Hamas “to clearly express its positions.”

Inbar, of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said that after October 7, Israelis treated Hamas as a hostile entity and wanted to see it defeated. “We understand that they will try to rebuild the military infrastructure” after Israel destroys it, he said, adding that Israel will continue to “cut the grass,” a reference to occasional military operations. aimed at diminishing Hamas’ military capacity.

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