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Haniyeh: We will not recognize Israel

Aug. 26, 2011 2:36 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 28, 2011 2:47 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Prime Minister of the Hamas-run Gaza government Ismail Haniyeh restated Friday his party's position that they will not recognize Israel.

In an address to worshipers gathered at An-Nour mosque in Gaza City for the last Friday of Ramadan, Haniyeh said "we will not leave any centimeter of Palestine, and we will not recognize Israel and the occupation."

The Hamas chief called the revolutions sweeping the Arab world, "the introduction for Palestinian liberation."

Noting the occasion of Al-Quds Day, an event marked internationally by solidarity activists, Haniyeh lauded nations remembering Jerusalem, and slogans raised "to liberate the capital of Palestine."

Haniyeh welcomed in his address the 36 South African activists who arrived in Gaza Thursday evening.

Hamas won Palestinian national elections in 2006, and ousted rival faction Fatah from the coastal strip in 2007 after tensions exploded into near civil war.

The long-time foes split the West Bank and Gaza into two administrations, with Fatah dominating the West Bank Palestinian Authority, and Hamas the government in Gaza. Elections and legislative bodies have been effectively suspended ever since.

In May 2011, the parties announced a surprise reconciliation deal brokered by Egypt, but have struggled to reach agreement on many of the key issues, in particular the candidate for Prime Minister in a new unity government.

Shortly after news of the deal broke, Hamas leader Mahmoud Az-Zahhar said Hamas was ready to recognize a Palestinian state "on any part of Palestine," for the first time publicly steering away from prior Hamas demands that the modern Palestinian state must be established "from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea."

Yet Az-Zahhar insisted the group will maintain its refusal to recognize Israel, citing fears of jeopardizing the right of return for Palestinian refugees who have been exiled from the land since 1948 when Israel was recognized by the United Nations.

Israeli officials slammed the unity deal as a "great victory for terrorism," and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted President Mahmoud Abbas must choose between reconciliation with Hamas and peace with Israel.

Negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis have stalled since Israel failed to renew a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank in September 2010.
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