Hamas leader Haniya accuses Europe of inaction on "massacres"

( dpa ) - Ismail Haniya, the Hamas political leader in the Gaza Strip, has accused Europe of ignoring what he termed Israeli "massacres" of Palestinians.

"I am disappointed that Europe continues to go under the protective veil of the United States and remain silent in light of Israel's massacres (of the Palestinian people)," he said in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI) on Friday.

"There are some European countries with whom we have good relations, but I would like them to play a more important role in the Middle East crisis", he added.

"We are ready to establish dialogue with them, but they have become closer to our enemy, since we were elected in 2006, and they use the same measure of assessment as the Americans do."

The US and Israel were shocked when Hamas swept to victory in parliamentary elections in January 2006 and they repeatedly stated that they would not work with a Palestinian Authority (PA) that included Hamas, which wants Israel replaced by an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine.

Hamas, whose military wing has carried out thousands of armed attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, is branded a terrorist organisation by the European Union, Israel and the US and it is subject to a western diplomatic boycott after it refused to change its charter to renounce violence and accept Israel's right to exist.

Haniya is a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and was dismissed from office by current president Mahmoud Abbas, after Hamas militants routed forces loyal to Abbas and seized full control of the Gaza Strip in five day of savage fighting in mid-June last year.

Referring to the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Haniya justified the launch of Qassam rockets against Israeli targets, calling it a response to Israeli raids in Gaza.

Although Israel pulled its settlers and soldiers out the Gaza Strip in August and September 2005, its troops make regular incursions into the salient, and its aircraft launch repeated strikes, in what the Israeli military say are raids aimed at thwarting the rocket fire.

On Friday Palestinian militants fired at least 20 Qassam rockets at southern Israel, mainly at the Negev desert and the city of Sderot, which lies around two kilometre east of the salient.

The attacks came a day after Israel cut back its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip, in response to a barrage of Qassam rockets launched by Palestinian militants.

The leader of the Islamist movement also spoke about a potential truce with Israel.

"There is a big difference between a temporary truce, and a long- term truce," Haniya said.

"For the first, we need an end to the raids and the (economic) embargo, while for the second, we need an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories and the liberation of all jailed Palestinians."

However, Haniya rejected a proposal from Abbas to reach a truce with Israel after the recent Gaza raids, branding it as a "provocation against the Palestinian people".

With regard to the possibility of early elections in the Palestinian territories, the Hamas leader said that "we are in favour of early elections, but we think it is wrong for the PA to make it a necessary condition for dialogue with Hamas."

"When they (PA) do not put any conditions, they will find we are always available."

During a meeting with Egyptian president Hosny Mubarak at the end of January 2008, Abbas reiterated the Palestinian Authority's willingness for dialogue with Hamas but refused to negotiate until Hamas ended its takeover of Gaza, which Abbas has called a "coup."

Regarding the border crisis in Rafah, where Hamas gunmen blasted huge gaps in the concrete and metal fence on January 23, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to pour into Egypt, Haniya said he did not consider recent talks Hamas held in on the issue in Cairo as a failure, and that there is still a chance for an agreement with Egypt.

Haniya also spoke about the situation of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was snatched in a cross-border raid launched from the Strip on June 25, 2006, saying there has not been any progress on his liberation.

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