Hamas: Changes in Arab world bring momentum to Palestinian issue

Hamas: Changes in Arab world bring momentum to Palestinian issue

The political changes sweeping the Arab world have brought new momentum to the Palestinian cause, said a Syrian-based official with the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas on Thursday.

"Arab countries began to recalculate their positions in light of the changes sweeping the region, bringing the Palestinian cause back to the forefront," Ezzat al-Rashq, a member of Hamas's political bureau in Damascus, told the German Press Agency dpa.

The statement came a day after the Islamist Hamas and rival secular Palestinian faction Fatah, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, signed an Egypt-brokered reconciliation agreement in Cairo.

"The collapse of former Egyptian president Hosny Mubarak's regime restored Egypt to its place in the heart of the region, and the revived regional spirit helped Palestinian reconciliation take place," al-Rashq said.

Successful anti-government uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have inspired similar movements in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the Gulf state of Bahrain.

Hamas wished "stability for Syria," where large numbers of people have been killed in government crackdowns on protesters in unrest which began over a month ago.

"We (Hamas) are careful not to interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab country where we are present," al-Rashq said.

Leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian groups have been living in Syria for several years, in addition to an estimated 700,000 Palestinian refugees.

The reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo calls for the formation of an interim government of "independents" which both factions approve of.

The caretaker government would then set the stage for elections to take place in one year's time.

Israel immediately opposed the reconciliation.

"The Palestinian Authority must choose between peace either with Israel or with Hamas. It cannot have both, because Hamas aims to destroy the state of Israel and says so openly," Netanyahu said according to a statement by his office on Wednesday.

Relations between the Palestinian groups disintegrated after Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and took control of the Gaza Strip the following year, limiting Fatah's control to the West Bank territories.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and its charter calls for an Islamic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. However, a more moderate stream within the movement has said it is willing to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip only, as a first - temporary - step in return for a truce lasting perhaps several generations.

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