Hamas wants more time to mull Palestinian unity deal

The Islamist Hamas movement on Thursday asked for more time to consider a Palestinian unity deal and demanded that it include a clause on the right to resist Israeli occupation.

“Hamas has officially asked Egypt to give it two to three days to complete its internal consultations,” the Hamas-run government spokesperson Taher al-Nunu told Agence France-Presse, without giving further details.

The secular Fatah party led by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already said it backs the Egypt-mediated unity agreement and was due on Thursday to present a signed copy of the accord to Egyptian leaders.

A Damascus-based spokesperson for Hamas and other hardline groups, however, had earlier criticised the agreement, saying it “lacks a political vision concerning the conflict [with Israel] and the aggression against our people”.

“The Palestinian factions will not sign the accord … unless the text includes the principles and the rights of Palestinians, especially that of resisting the Zionist occupation,” said the spokesperson, Khaled Abdel Majid.

“We urge all Palestinian groups and national personalities to act rapidly and take those measures necessary to preserve the Palestinian cause from the dangers that threaten it and to insist on the historic rights of our people.”

He said the deal proposed by Egypt should also include the question of “Jerusalem and the dangers of ‘judaisation’ and permanent aggression that threaten this holy city,” as well as “the right of return for Palestinian refugees to their homes”.

Cairo has been struggling for months to get Fatah and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to ink a national unity deal, but the two main Palestinian factions have repeatedly postponed the signing.

On Thursday Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed flew to Cairo and went straight into a meeting with officials, Palestinian Authority ambassador to Egypt Barakat al-Farra told Agence France-Presse.

Ahmed had said before arriving that he would hand over the agreement — signed by Fatah — to Egyptian officials.

The latest Cairo proposal is designed to pave the way for Palestinian elections next summer.

Palestinian Basic Law mandates that a new general election must be called at least three months before the end of the sitting Parliament’s mandate, a deadline which falls on October 25.

Egypt announced last week that Fatah and Hamas would sign the much delayed unity deal in Cairo on October 25 to 26, but Hamas asked for a delay amid controversy over a damning United Nations report on the Gaza war at the turn of the year.

The Islamist movement had accused Fatah of “betraying” the Palestinian victims of the conflict after the Palestinian delegation at the UN Human Rights Council agreed to have a vote on the report deferred.

Abbas, who faced a hail of criticism over the move, has since done an about-turn and the Geneva-based council was due to re-examine the report at its session on Thursday.

Abbas’s four-year term expired last January, but Fatah has cited provisions in the constitution that require presidential and parliamentary elections to be held together to justify his remaining in office.

Hamas-Fatah tensions date back to the start of limited Palestinian self-rule in the mid-1990s when Fatah strongmen cracked down on Islamist activists.

They went up a notch in January 2006, when in a surprise general election rout, Hamas beat the previously dominant Fatah to grab more than half the seats in Parliament.

Longstanding divisions between the two groups climaxed in June 2007 when Hamas expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip after a week of deadly clashes, cleaving the Palestinian territories into rival hostile camps. — AFP

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