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Hamas: Peaceful resistance not applicable to Gaza

Jan. 3, 2012 12:33 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 4, 2012 5:39 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar has cast doubt his party will take up peaceful resistance against Israel as advocated by former rivals Fatah.

Under a reconciliation deal between the factions signed in May, officials called for a unified "national strategy," and Fatah officials say that Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal agreed to adopt non-violent popular action in favor of armed struggle.

But in comments to Ma'an late Monday, senior Hamas official in Gaza Zahhar stressed the situation in the Gaza Strip is different to the occupied West Bank.

"Against whom could we demonstrate in the Gaza Strip? When Gaza was occupied, that model was applicable," Zahhar said.

Israeli forces withdrew from the coastal strip in 2005, and imposed a crippling land and sea blockade after Hamas took power in 2007.

Zahhar said that no program of peaceful resistance had been agreed with Fatah. "We only discussed that as a slogan," he said, without elaborating.

The mass popular protests of the Arab Spring are not applicable to Palestinians' opposition to Israeli occupation, he added.

"We can't use the same means seen in Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia because they are inappropriate in the West Bank. Egypt got rid of the British occupation with arms, and since we are resisting occupation, we should use all means including armed resistance."

But Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad told Ma'an that Fatah chief President Mahmoud Abbas and Mashaal agreed at their Nov. 24 meeting to adopt peaceful resistance and to increase its scale both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank.

Suggesting that agreement was still pending, Zahhar said: "The most important thing is to have a united political agenda. We should agree on whether we want all kinds of resistance, or just limit it to rallies and waving flags?"

The May deal aimed to end four years of division between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas-led Gaza administration, which split after fighting between the factions exploded in 2007.

Hamas will be ready to step down in the Gaza Strip if another party wins elections, Zahhar said, "however, elections must be honorable."

Differences between the parties' strategy was again highlighted on Monday, when Hamas slammed Fatah officials' participation in talks with Israeli and Quartet envoys in Jordan this week, saying such meetings were "reproducing a failed policy."
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