Gaza peace prospects shaky after Hamas refusal to disarm

Last Updated 29 August 2014, 12:50 IST

Prospects of a final deal on a long-term Gaza truce between Israel and Hamas were seen as shaky today after its leader ruled out Israeli demands to disarm the Palestinian militant group.

"The weapons of the resistance are sacred and we will not accept that they be on the agenda" of future negotiations with Israel, the exiled Meshaal told a news conference on yesterday in Doha.

Israel has consistently linked the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, devastated during its 50-day war with Hamas that ended last Tuesday, to the territory's demilitarisation.

"It has become abundantly clear that unless Hamas is disarmed and its tools of control removed, there can be no peace and security for either Israelis or Palestinians," Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned, quoted on his ministry's website.

France's President Francois Hollande also backs the disarmament of the coastal strip where Hamas is de facto ruler.

"Gaza can no longer be an army base for Hamas, or an open-air prison for its inhabitants. One should move towards a progressive lifting of the blockade and the demilitarisation of the territory," he told French diplomats on Thursday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming victory over the Palestinian militants.

"Hamas was hit very hard and there is here a military achievement of the highest order, as well as a diplomatic achievement because they dropped all of their demands," he told a visiting delegation from the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

"They got to this point the hard way. They kept testing us and every time we struck them but the last time, given this accumulation of blows, they were persuaded," he said.

But talks on crunch issues such as Hamas's demands for a port and an airport and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel's calls to disarm militant groups, have been put on hold until negotiators return to Cairo within a month.

Meshaal said his group's weaponry "guarantees that our demands will not be overlooked", although he acknowledged that not all its conditions for a ceasefire had been met.

"Not all our demands have been satisfied... but an important part," he said, referring to the easing of Israel's blockade of the impoverished territory. Both Israel and Hamas have hailed the truce as a "victory".

The seven-week conflict claimed the lives of at least 2,140 Palestinians, more than 70 percent of them civilians according to the United Nations, and 65 soldiers and six civilians on the Israeli side.

(Published 29 August 2014, 12:49 IST)

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