The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process panned Hamas leaders Sunday for urging the destruction of Israel, and said Palestinians should make resolving the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip the focus of their efforts.
Nickolay Mladenov’s comments came after senior figures in the Hamas terror group declared that a reconciliation with rival Fatah does not mean that Hamas will end its efforts to wipe out the Jewish state.
“I condemn the latest statements made by some Hamas leaders, reportedly calling for the destruction of the State of Israel,” Mladenov said. “They do not serve the interest of peace and the goal of achieving a negotiated two-state solution.”
“Under the auspices of Egypt, Palestinian leaders have embarked on a course to solve the grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza and enable the government to take up its responsibilities in the Strip. I encourage them not be distracted from this objective.”
Palestinians factions Fatah and Hamas agreed earlier this month in Cairo on a landmark deal to end a decade-long split and are seeking to form a unity government along with other parties.
Iran’s Press TV reported Saturday that Hamas deputy chief Salah al-Arouri, leading a Palestinian delegation to Tehran, said that Hamas and Fatah “confronted” three preconditions set by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for dealing with any Palestinian government in which Hamas sits — that Hamas disarm, recognize Israel and cut all relations with Iran.
Regarding the first and second demands, he said, “We’re not in the stage of recognition; rather we are now in the stage of preparing to eliminate the Zionist entity.” As for the third, cutting relations with Iran, he said, “Our visit to Tehran is our practical rejection to the Israeli demand to cut ties with it.”
Hamas has controlled Gaza with Iran’s backing since ousting the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in a violent coup in 2007.
Under the recent deal between the two factions, Hamas is set to hand administration of the Strip back to Fatah while retaining its massive fighting force.
The United States has said any joint government must recognize Israel and disarm Hamas, but the group has stridently rejected the conditions.
“No one in the universe can disarm us. On the contrary, we will continue to have the power to protect our citizens,” Hamas Gaza head Yahya Sinwar said Thursday.
“Over is the time Hamas spent discussing recognizing Israel. Now Hamas will discuss when we will wipe out Israel,” Sinwar said, according to the Hamas-linked news agency Shehab.
Arouri is in charge, among other things, of Hamas’s terrorist activities in the West Bank. He lives in exile in Beirut after being expelled from Turkey and Qatar.
When Fatah and Hamas signed their reconciliation agreement in Cairo last week, Arouri, who headed the Hamas delegation that negotiated the deal, said Palestinian unity was vital “so that we can all work together against the Zionist enterprise.”
Agencies contributed to this report.