Outgoing Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh hailed the swearing-in of the Palestinian unity government on Monday as a “historic day for the Palestinian people” while touting the strength of the group’s military brigade.
“I am not concerned about the resistance; it is in good condition. Today there is an army, in the form of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades — it is advanced and the resistance is advanced,” he said.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades is the armed wing of Hamas. The unit has in past years launched thousands of rockets at Israel’s southern residents.
The unit, with an estimated tens of thousands of armed members in the Strip, should theoretically come under control of the unified government in Ramallah. But analysts say Hamas is unlikely to relinquish that power.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday the new government would recognize Israel and abide by the Mideast Quartet’s conditions including renouncing violence, a move likely to be opposed by Hamas.
The Hamas leader also said the new government has “difficult tasks ahead,” most prominently in tackling the infrastructural challenges in Gaza and ending the blockade.
Hours before the swearing-in ceremony, Hamas had said that it would not recognize the unity government if it did not include a minister for prisoners affairs. At the last minute, the two sides agreed to have Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah man the post. However, in his remarks, Haniyeh said the matter was still under discussion but was not sufficiently important to delay the swearing-in proceedings. Despite the spat, the Gazan leader stressed that under the new government “there will be no political or diplomatic division among the Palestinian people.”
Abbas swore in the ministers of a new unity government Monday afternoon, ending years of division between the rival Palestinian factions, with the technocratic government planned to set up elections in the next six months.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.