Hamas dispels reports of a 'no violence' deal

Palestinians celebrating the 24th anniversary of Hamas in Gaza last week

Palestinians celebrating the 24th anniversary of Hamas in Gaza last week

Reports of a shift of policy by Hamas to non-violent resistance against Israel appear premature at best.

In a Friday interview with the Euronews network, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed to have reached an agreement with Hamas that, from now on, the Palestinian struggle against Israel would "be population-based and not with weapons".

However, no confirmation of that position has so far come from Hamas. Rather, they have said: "We are not currently focused on armed resistance but that is still one of our paths forward if Israel will continue forcing us."

Last week, Hamas celebrated 24 years since its foundation with a mass-rally in Gaza, at which Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced: "Armed resistance is the way, and it is Hamas's strategic choice to liberate Palestine."

Haniyeh hailed the success of Islamic parties in the elections in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco and called for an Arab army to "liberate Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa Mosque".

Other speakers at the rally boasted that throughout its history, the movement had killed 1,365 Israelis, carried out 87 suicide bombings and fired over 11,000 missiles and shells into Israel.

For now, despite two signing ceremonies this year, the agreement between the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, is still far from implementation and delegations met again on Sunday to try to work out the remaining differences between the sides.

The two movements have still to agree on the appointment of a new Palestinian cabinet which will oversee affairs both in Gaza and the West Bank, the dates for parliamentary and presidential elections and co-operation on security affairs.

"It's true that Hamas has not attacked Israel from Gaza for much of the past three years," said an Israeli defence official, "but this has nothing to do with an agreement with Abbas. Hamas continues to build up its forces in Gaza, especially its medium-range missile capabilities. For now, for tactical reasons, they prefer to keep things quiet."

    Last updated: 12:46pm, December 22 2011