Hamas supports economic isolation from Israel

( dpa ) - An aide to Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said Sunday that the Islamist movement, which administers the Gaza Strip, supports an economic dissociation from Israel and instead would prefer depending on Arab and Islamic countries for support.

But at the same time, Ahmed Yousef denied his movement wants to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, where a government appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas, but as yet unratified, sits.

"What I was talking about is to stop keeping Gaza subordinate to Israel from an economic point of view, and to stop using the economy to blackmail the Palestinians," he told reporters in Gaza.

Haniya told the Gaza-based pro-Hamas "Palistine" daily on Saturday that Gaza needed stronger links with Egypt as a way of enforcing an economic dissociation from Israel.

"We said during our election campaign in 2006 that we are seeking to move toward an economic disengagement from the Israeli occupation," he said, adding that "Egypt has a greater ability to meet the needs of Gaza."

Since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June last year Israel has defined the salient as a "hostile entity" and closed all crossing points between the enclave and the Jewish state. The Rafah crossing, between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, was also shut down.

"Our idea does not annul the fact that Gaza is still under the Israeli occupation, but all what we want is to breath freedom, find job opportunities, develop agriculture and promote commerce," said Yousef.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the Strip in August and September 2005, but its army makes regular forays into the enclave in order to thwart, or retaliate for, rocket attacks at adjacent Israeli towns and villages.

An upsurge in such rocket attacks - more than 130 over three days last month - led Israel to tighten even further its blockade of the Strip, cutting off fuel deliveries.

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