BEIRUT

Middle East

Hamas leader: No to Israeli disarmament demand

Senior Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a rally in Gaza City August 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

A senior leader of Hamas Friday rejected Israel's demand that the group be disarmed as a condition for ending the long-running blockade of the Gaza Strip and permitting the opening of an air and seaport there.

Ismail Haniyeh told a gathering near Gaza City that "we cannot accept or deal with any international decision to disarm the resistance" - a reference to Hamas and other Palestinian groups.

Israel has said it will press for Hamas' disarmament in indirect talks in Cairo aimed at charting a way forward for Gaza in the wake of a 50-day war that killed more than 2,200 people - almost all Palestinian. The fighting ended August 26.

Hamas is pushing for the opening of an air and sea port in the densely populated coastal strip and the lifting of Israeli border restrictions imposed in 2007.

Israel has long said it must restrict the import of cement, pipes and other construction materials into Gaza because militants use them to build rockets, bunkers and cross-border attack tunnels. Unlike the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, Hamas does not accept Israel's right to exist.

 

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