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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Hamas deputy leader says to continue Iran ties, armed fight

Hamas said a visit by its delegation to Iran was a 'rejection' of the Israeli conditions on reconciliation with Fatah

Saleh Al Arouri (L), Hamas deputy chief, meets with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's National Security Council, in Tehran, Iran on October 21, 2017. Tasnim News Agency / Reuters
Saleh Al Arouri (L), Hamas deputy chief, meets with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's National Security Council, in Tehran, Iran on October 21, 2017. Tasnim News Agency / Reuters

The deputy head of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas vowed to keep close ties with Israel's arch-enemy Iran and to maintain its weapons, Iranian media reported on Sunday, rejecting Israeli preconditions for any peace talks.

Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist group by Western countries and Israel, signed a reconciliation deal this month with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.

"Undoubtedly, the Palestinian resistance forces will never give up … their arms," the semi-official news agency Mehr quoted Hamas’s deputy leader Saleh Al Arouri as saying at a meeting with the Iranian parliament's speaker Ali Larijani in Tehran.

Hamas said on Sunday that a visit by its delegation to Iran was a “rejection” of the Israeli conditions on reconciliation with Fatah.

The two largest Palestinian groups have agreed to a deal that is supposed to see Hamas hand over control of the Gaza Strip to the Fatah-dominated West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

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Israel said on Tuesday it would not hold peace negotiations with a Palestinian government dependent on Hamas and demanded that Hamas recognise Israel, disarm, and sever its ties with Iran.

"Our presence in Iran is the practical denial of the third pre-condition — cutting ties with Iran," Arouri said earlier, quoted by Iran's Fars news agency.

He reiterated that Hamas would not be forced to give up its armed wing.

In August, a Hamas leader said that Iran was again its biggest provider of money and arms after years of tension over the civil war in Syria. Hamas had angered Tehran by refusing to support its ally, Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, in the six-year-old civil war.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008. It seized Gaza after forcing out Fatah in a near civil war in 2007.

US president Donald Trump is trying to encourage the Palestinians and Israelis to restart long-frozen peace negotiations.