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Hamas rejects talk of recognising Israel, for now

The new Govt has been under pressure from the "Quartet" of Middle East mediators to recognise Israel's right to exist.
None | By Reuters, Jerusalem
PUBLISHED ON MAR 31, 2006 05:47 PM IST

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh ruled out any talk of the Hamas-led government he heads recognising Israel or ending the fight against the Jewish state until Israel commits to withdrawing from Palestinian land.

In a column that appeared in London's Guardian newspaper on Friday, Haniyeh said, "we have every right to respond with all available means" if Israel continues to launch attacks and to impose "sanctions" on Palestinians.

Haniyeh's column, which lists his email address as, was published one day after four Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing by the Palestinian militant group al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Hamas called the attack a "natural response to Israeli crimes".

Sworn in on Wednesday, Haniyeh's new government has been under pressure from the "Quartet" of Middle East mediators to recognise Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and abide by interim peace deals.

In a statement on Thursday, Quartet partners the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations warned Hamas that direct foreign assistance to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority would inevitably be affected by its refusal to meet their demands.

"The message from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to world powers is this: talk to us no more about recognising Israel's 'right to exist' or ending resistance until you obtain a commitment from the Israelis to withdraw from our land and recognise our rights," Haniyeh wrote.

He rebuffed threats by Western powers to cut off direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

"We will persist, and our friends have pledged to fill the gap," Haniyeh said, in an apparent reference to Iran and other Muslim states.

In the column, Haniyeh criticised what he called "scandalous double standards" by the United States and the European Union in making demands of Hamas without putting pressure on Israeli interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to abandon Jewish settlements and to halt unilateral measures.

Olmert's centrist Kadima party won Tuesday's election on plans to set Israel's final borders within four years with or without the agreement of its Palestinian neighbour.

"Olmert's unilateralism is a recipe for conflict," Haniyeh wrote.

"It is a plan to impose a permanent situation in which the Palestinians end up with a homeland cut into pieces made inaccessible because of massive Jewish settlements built in contravention of international law on land seized illegally from the Palestinians."

Haniyeh added: "No plan will ever work without a guarantee, in exchange for an end to hostilities by both sides, of a total Israeli withdrawal from all the land occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; the release of all our prisoners; the removal of all settlers from all settlements; and recognition of the right of all refugees to return."

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