Hamas delegation kicks off Iran visit amid Palestinian unity negotiations
KHALED DESOUKI (AFP)
A high-ranking Hamas delegation began a visit to Iran Friday to inform its backers in Tehran about reconciliation efforts with rival Palestinian faction Fatah, an official from the Islamist movement said.
The group led by deputy chief Salah al-Aruri will meet senior Iranian officials over the next several days, the representative said on condition of anonymity, after Israel insisted it will not recognise any unity Palestinian government unless Hamas cuts off ties with Tehran.
The two Palestinians factions have agreed a landmark deal to end a decade-long split and seek to form a unity government along with other parties.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007 with Iranian backing -- although ties frayed at the beginning of the Syrian civil war -- but is expected to hand it over to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and is proscribed as a terror organization by the United States and European Union.
The United States has said any joint government must recognise Israel and disarm Hamas, but the group has stridently rejected the conditions.
"No one in the universe can disarm us. On the contrary, we will continue to have the power to protect our citizens," the Islamist movement's Gaza head Yahya Sinwar said Thursday.
Previous attempts at reconciling the Palestinian factions have repeatedly failed, and many analysts are treating the latest bid with caution, waiting to see if it will change anything on the ground.
A major sticking point is expected to be the fate of Hamas's 25,000-strong armed wing.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled out a so-called 'Hezbollah option' that would see Hamas maintain its militia with only limited control by the unity government.
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A Taqiyya joke.