GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A senior leader of Hamas on Friday rejected Israel’s demand that the group be disarmed as a condition for ending the long-running blockade of the Gaza Strip and permitting the opening of an air and seaport there.
Ismail Haniyeh, the former Hamas prime minister in Gaza, told a gathering near Gaza City that “we cannot accept or deal with any international decision to disarm the resistance” — a reference to Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups.
Haniyeh said the terror groups arms were “sacred” and vowed that “as long as there is occupation [of Palestinians’ land, there will be resistance,” Israel Radio reported.
The Hamas leader also added that the most recent battle “against the Israeli occupation would not be the last.”
Israel has said it will press for Hamas’s disarmament in indirect talks in Cairo aimed at charting a way forward for Gaza in the wake of a 50-day war that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and 72 Israelis, mostly soldiers. Among the Palestinian dead, Israel says at least half were Hamas gunmen or operatives from other terror groups.
The fighting ended August 26 in an open-ended truce.
Hamas is pushing for the opening of an air and sea port in the densely populated coastal strip and the lifting of Israeli — and Egyptian — border restrictions imposed in 2007, in large part to prevent the smuggling of weaponry.
Israel has long said it must restrict the import of cement, pipes and other construction materials into Gaza because terrorists use them to build rockets, bunkers and cross-border attack tunnels.
Unlike the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Hamas does not accept Israel’s right to exist and openly calls for its destruction in its charter.