Hamas head to make diplomatic trip to Moscow

Spokesman says Russia extended invitation to political leader of Islamist group during meeting with Gaza leadership

Khaled Mashaal, November 2012 (photo credit: screen capture/
Khaled Mashaal, November 2012 (photo credit: screen capture/

Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal will make a diplomatic visit to Russia in July, the Islamist Palestinian group said Monday.

The Russian foreign ministry extended the invitation in May following a meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Hamas leadership in Qatar, according to Hamas spokesman Husam Badran, who added that the trip would cover Palestinian reconciliation and economic relations, according to Russia Today’s Arabic edition.

Russia has expressed support for the Palestinian unity deal, as long as the new government upheld existing treaties with Israel, recognized its right to exist and renounced violence.

However, despite a public promise from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and initial reports that it would agree to such terms, Hamas has stuck to its refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist and insisted that it would not renounce its violent struggle.

The Palestinian Authority was planning to go ahead with the swearing in of a unity government Monday, although some differences with Hamas remain over the identity of its ministers.

Hamas and Fatah struck a surprise reconciliation deal on April 23. The two entities had been at odds since 2007, when Hamas violently seized the Gaza Strip from the internationally backed Abbas. Hamas, which has carried out scores of bombing, shooting and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, is considered a terror group by Israel and the West.

Following the announcement of the unity deal, Israel suspended peace negotiations with Abbas’s PA. It has since steadfastly refused to negotiate with any government that includes Hamas unless it officially recognizes Israel and renounces violence.

Top Israeli cabinet members decided on Sunday not to hold any further negotiations with the PA as long as Hamas takes part in government affairs, Army Radio reported. The cabinet further ruled that Israel would reallocate some Palestinian tax money and use the funds to pay off the Authority’s debts to Israeli companies, according to the report. The cabinet also barred three Hamas ministers from attending Monday’s government swearing-in ceremony, according to Israel Radio.

The Israel Air Force struck two targets in Gaza Monday morning in response to rocket fire from the strip over the weekend.

Adiv Sterman and AP contributed to this report.

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