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Zahhar: Hamas will not separate Gaza from the West Bank

July 22, 2012 1:26 P.M. (Updated: July 23, 2012 4:46 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahhar on Sunday denied media reports that the Islamist group is considering declaring the Gaza Strip a separate entity from the Palestinian Authority controlled West Bank.

"Such news is being disseminated by the enemies of Hamas seeking to maintain the siege on Gaza," Zahhar told Ma'an.

"This issue hasn’t been addressed officially within Hamas, but some people posed it privately on their own," he added.

The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported Sunday that Hamas was considering declaring Gaza a separate entity from the PA-controlled West Bank.

According to the report, Hamas officials said Egypt would back the move, which would also see improved trade ties between both parties.

Mahmoud Zahhar said the issue was not discussed with the Egyptians at all, adding that recent Hamas delegation meetings with the Egyptian leadership were positive.

An Egyptian committee is scheduled to visit the Gaza Strip within a week to study the mechanisms needed to end the siege on the coastal enclave, Zahhar said.

The Gaza Strip will soon be connected to Egypt's power grid and a pipeline is set to be installed to provide natural gas to the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Hamas official said.

"These issues were discussed in Cairo, but implementation will take a while given the fact that Egypt’s situation has not stabilized yet," he added.

Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal met new Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi on Thursday and hailed his election as the start of a "new era" for Egypt and the Palestinians.

The founding of Hamas was inspired by Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood -- Egypt's oldest and most established Islamist movement -- but the group now operates independently because of its location and the conflict with Israel.

Hamas has yet to see any sign of a policy shift since the election of Mursi, who is keen not to upset Egypt's ally, the United States, and weaken his hand in a struggle with the powerful military.

Mashaal said Egypt's presidency and intelligence services would continue to shepherd a reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah that began last year.

Reuters contributed to this report
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