A senior Hamas official on Monday ruled out the group giving up its weapons and threatened to expand into the West Bank, days before the Palestinian Authority is set to take over control of the Gaza Strip.
Speaking to reporters in Gaza, Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said the possibility of disarming was “not up for debate or talk.”
“These weapons will clearly move to the West Bank to battle the (Israeli) occupation there. It’s our right to fight the occupation until it ends,” the Associated Press quoted Mr. al-Hayya as saying.
Hamas has administered the Gaza strip for a decade after splitting with Mahmoud Abbas‘ Fatah party in June 2007. On November 1, Hamas turned over control of the Gaza border to the Palestinian Authority as part of broader reconciliation efforts.
The Fatah party has demanded that Hamas give up its weapons as part of the Egypt-brokered talks, but the group has so far refused to disarm. Israel and the U.S. have ruled out any deal with Hamas while it maintains an armed wing.
Talks between the two have stalled after a reconciliation deal was signed in October. The PA was set to take full control over the Gaza strip on Friday, but PA civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh said on Saturday that Hamas had failed to complete measures to make that a reality.
“We are like the child that is crawling on this issue of empowering the government.” Mr. Sheikh said in an interview with a local PA television station. “We have not surpassed the 5 percent [marker] on the issue of empowering the government.”
He said Hamas had not provided security for the border, and prevented the PA from collecting taxes and staffing its ministries.
A Hamas spokesperson disputed Mr. Sheikh’s comments, tweeting on Sunday that the PA had assumed control of the border, ministries and “authority,” the Jerusalem Post reported.