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Hamas to focus on popular resistance: Meshaal

November 25, 2011

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Meshaal’s comments were made just hours after he held top-level talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. – Reuters Photo

CAIRO: Hamas is looking to focus its energies on popular resistance without giving up its right to wage armed struggle against Israel, the Islamist movement’s leader Khaled Meshaal told AFP in an interview.

“Every people has the right to fight against occupation in every way, with weapons or otherwise. But at the moment, we want to cooperate with the popular resistance,” the group’s Damascus-based leader said in the interview late on Thursday.

“We believe in armed resistance but popular resistance is a programme which is common to all the factions,” he said.

The Islamist movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, has long called for the destruction of the Jewish state and has fiercely defended its right to wage a bloody armed struggle to end the occupation.

Although not opposed in principle by Hamas, popular, non-violent resistance has never been a priority for the group which made its name through a series of bloody suicide attacks against Israel.

Meshaal’s comments were made just hours after he held top-level talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who heads the rival Fatah movement, in a bid to cement a stalled reconciliation agreement between the two groups.

Speaking to reporters in Cairo, the two leaders approved a two-page document reiterating their commitment to the main elements of the original deal, which was signed in May, and hailed a new era of “partnership” between their two factions.

The document, a copy of which was seen by AFP, outlines an agreement on “the adoption of popular resistance” which is to be to be strengthened to oppose the seizure of land for Jewish settlement building and construction of the West Bank barrier.

“This resistance will be increased and organised and there is to be an agreement on its style, on greater efficiency and the formation of a framework to direct it,” the accord says.

Meshaal did not go into detail about the focus on popular resistance but said the Hamas leadership would ensure the agreement was translated into action.

“I asked them to take practical and positive measures to flesh out this agreement,” he told AFP.

“I have instructed the Hamas leadership (in Gaza and Damascus) to adopt a political line and one with the press that doesn’t upset the conciliatory spirit, and that truly reflects the atmosphere of reconciliation “The Hamas chief also brushed off threats by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has vowed to retaliate should Abbas’s Western-backed Palestinian Authority form a unity government with Gaza’s Islamist rulers.

“The threats by Netanyahu’s government and its security cabinet don’t scare us but confirms that we are heading in the right direction,” he said shortly after Israeli ministers decided to maintain a freeze on millions of dollars in tax monies owed to the Palestinians in response to the Hamas-Fatah rapprochement.

Israel is deeply concerned about the two factions forming a unity government, but such a step is not on the cards until after elections, which the two factions say will be held in May 2012.