Hamas rejects Palestinian Authority call to lay down arms

Thursday, December 23, 2004

GAZA CITY Hamas has refused a Palestinian Authority request to surrender its weapons.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said the movement would not surrender its weapons to the PA even after an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Zahar said Hamas was ready to help capture weapons held by other Palestinians.

"We will never drop our guns until the end of the occupation and until we will have secure borders for a Palestinian homeland," Zahar said.

PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas has called on all insurgency groups to surrender their weapons to facilitate the resumption of peace talks with Israel, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We are ready to cooperate in collecting illegal arms that lead to crimes against our people," Zahar said. "But concerning our arms, Abu Mazen [Abbas] told us that the PA would deal with this through dialogue."

Zahar said Hamas would use its weapons to fight Israel. He said the priority would be to avenge the Israeli military's operation in Khan Yunis last weekend.

"We have a right, a duty to defend ourselves and our children and women," Zahar said. "Nobody can lecture us on this most axiomatic issue. Do you want us to do nothing while the Israeli occupation army murders our children and destroy our homes. Would you do that yourself?"

On Wednesday, Israel's military renewed operations in the refugee camp in Khan Yunis, the launching pad for mortar and missile attacks on the neighboring Israeli community of Gush Katif. Over the last few weeks, Hamas was said to have fired Kassam-class short-range missiles toward Israeli civilian and military targets from Khan Yunis.

Zahar also said Hamas sought to conclude an accord with the ruling Fatah movement that would govern relations between the two groups. He said the so-called charter of honor could pave the way for inclusion of Hamas into the PLO.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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