PARIS, (Reuters) – Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has ruled out setting up a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip after his Islamists routed forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas sacked the three-month-old unity government he formed with Hamas on Thursday but Haniyeh has refused to accept his dismissal as prime minister.
Asked if he intended to declare Gaza a state after taking control of the territory, Haniyeh said in an interview with France’s Le Figaro daily published on Saturday: “No. Gaza belongs to all the Palestinian people and not just Hamas.”
Haniyeh, who became prime minister after Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006, also said he wanted a “reciprocal, global and simultaneous” truce with Israel. “Separation is not on the agenda and never will be,” he added. “We reject the idea of separating the Palestinian Territories between East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which are inseparable.”
Haniyeh was dismissed by Abbas after the Islamic movement’s bloody takeover of Gaza, an impoverished enclave bordering Israel and Egypt, after days of bloody civil war.
Abbas will swear in a new prime minister and emergency cabinet on Saturday, a top presidential aide said. Abbas has tapped Salam Fayyad, a Western-backed independent lawmaker, to serve as prime minister of the new government.
Haniyeh said Hamas remained the legitimate government of the Palestinian Territories, adding that his forces had taken over in order to end violence he said was started by Abbas’s Fatah. “We will ensure discipline and the law in Gaza,” Haniyeh said. “That way it will be easier to obtain the release of British journalist Alan Johnston. His kidnappers will listen to us more,” he added.”
Johnston, the only Western correspondent based full-time in Gaza, was seized on March 12. His abductors, a little-known group called the Army of Islam, issued a video of him on June 1 in which he said he was in good health and being well treated.
Haniyeh repeated Hamas’s call for a Palestinian state within the borders of 1967 — Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital. He added: “We undertake to respect all the accords passed, signed by the Palestinian Authority. We wish for a reciprocal, global and simultaneous truce with Israel.”
Hamas leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Islamist group continues to say it will not formally recognise Israel and its 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.