Hamas: ‘Our weapons are not up for discussion’

A Hamas spokesperson has said that reconciliation talks with the Gaza-based movement’s Palestinian rival should be aimed at ’empowering’ it to fulfill its potential as an armed resistance movement.

The future of Hamas’ military wing is not up for discussion, a spokesperson from the movement said on Saturday, ahead of reconciliation talks scheduled to take place in Cairo on Tuesday.

The rival Palestinian Authority (PA) should recognised Hamas’ military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, and the movement should retain right to keep its arms, the official said.

It follows calls from some members of the PA for Hamas to be disarmed and disempowered.

“The resistance’s weapons are legal. They are here to protect Palestinians and free their lands [from the Israeli occupation] – therefore, this should not be an issue to discuss,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem told Palestine based Maan News Agency.

He added that the reconciliation talks between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA should “empower” Hamas to fulfil its potential as an armed resistance movement.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian cabinet met in Gaza on Tuesday for the first time since 2014 in a further step towards the PA retaking control of the besieged territory.

The meeting of the government, which is based in the occupied West Bank, comes as part of moves to end a decade-long split between the PA and the Hamas movement, which runs Gaza.

In an opening speech, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah renewed his pledge to end the rift.

“We are here to turn the page on division, restore the national project to its correct direction and establish the (Palestinian) state,” he said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose presidency expired in 2009, warned Hamas to not act in Gaza the same way Lebanon’s Hizballah.

“I will not accept or copy or reproduce the Hizballah example in Lebanon,” Abbas told Palestinians in an TV interview, Wafa News Agency reported.

“Everything must be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority (PA),” he added.

Hamas agreed to effectively hand over power to the PA in Gaza and new elections last month, following a crippling embargo on the besieged territory.

Fatah and Hamas fought a brief conflict in the Palestinian territories after the Islamist movement won legislative elections in 2006. Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since, while Fatah dominates the West Bank.