GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – A Hamas official on Saturday disclosed the contents of a letter he wrote to President Obama on behalf of the internationally shunned militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.
Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas government official, said that in the letter, he called on Obama “to deal in a fair way with the Palestinian issue.” Many Palestinians believe that U.S. foreign policy is biased in Israel’s favor.
The letter was given to U.N. officials who passed it to U.S. Sen. John Kerry during a visit to Gaza on Thursday.
Kerry’s foray into Gaza marked the highest-level visit by a U.S. politician since Hamas seized power of Gaza in 2007. Kerry did not meet with Hamas officials.
Obama has said he wants to reach out to Muslims everywhere, but it’s not clear whether he’ll change U.S. policy toward Hamas.
Yousef said that when Hamas learned of Kerry’s visit to Gaza, he swiftly penned the letter. “We tried to seize the opportunity, and that led us to quickly write a letter to President Obama, to be passed to his hands,” Yousef told The Associated Press. He spoke a day after Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied that Hamas sent the letter. However, Yousef said Saturday that the letter was endorsed by the Hamas government.
Yousef said he also asked Obama to be open toward the militant group, which is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and most of the international community.
“We also spoke about the need for the U.S. administration to be open with Hamas, which enjoys broad support in the Palestinian street,” he said.
The letter summarized the militant group’s “visions and attitudes,” Yousef said, but did not elaborate. Hamas seeks Israel’s eventual destruction, but says it’s ready to reach a long-term cease-fire with the Jewish state.
Although some Hamas officials have hinted in the past that they would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Israel, it is not the militant group’s formal stance.
Yousef is an adviser to Hamas’ Foreign Ministry and is frequently involved in the group’s contacts with Western officials.
It was not immediately clear if the letter reached Obama. Since taking office last month, Obama has said he wants to improve America’s ties with the Muslim world. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, is considered close to Obama.