Hamas Politburo Hits Back at Blair’s Preconditions for Gaza Rebuilding

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A Palestinian girl cries and asks for her brother as they stand amid the rubble of buildings destroyed during last year's 50-day Israeli assault, on February 11, 2015 during a sandstorm in Gaza City. AFP/Mohammed Abed

Published Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The deputy head of Hamas' politburo said that international Quartet envoy Tony Blair visited the Gaza Strip on Sunday to notify the resistance movement of a new set of preconditions for the reconstruction of the war-torn coastal enclave.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Moussa Abu Marzouk said that Blair’s remarks were completely different from what he said when he was the United Kingdom’s prime minister.

"In January 2009, Blair admitted that Hamas was a major player in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and in the peace process. He didn't even talk about the Quartet’s three preconditions, that included Hamas recognizing Israel, renouncing resistance and accepting what the Palestinians have already signed, but rather spoke of appropriate preconditions," declared Abu Marzouk.

However, “Blair is now talking about five new preconditions for the Strip’s reconstruction,” the official said.

"He is taking advantage of the tragic conditions the Gazans are living in following the Israeli assault,” he added.

For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea, killing 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, and injuring 10,626.

The Israeli offensive ended on August 26 with an Egypt-brokered ceasefire deal.

The assault left the densely populated enclave in ruins, displacing more than a quarter of Gaza's population of 1.7 million and leaving 100,000 people, mostly children, homeless.

According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, over 96,000 Palestinian family homes were damaged or destroyed during the aggression, including 7,000 homes that were completely lost. UNRWA has estimated that at least $720 million is needed to address the housing crisis caused by the conflict.

According to Abu Marzouk, Blair's five preconditions were: Palestinian reconciliation; a Palestinian political program based on a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders; acceptance of a two-state solution as a final solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; confirmation that Hamas is a Palestinian movement seeking to achieve Palestinian goals rather than it being part of wider Islamic and resistance movements with regional dimensions; and that Hamas abstain from intervening in Egypt.

In response to Blair’s preconditions, Abu Marzouk said Hamas was a Palestinian, Arab and Islamic resistance movement that holds firmly to the Palestinians’ right of return and liberation.

Commenting on the two-state solution as a final solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he asserted that Hamas "won't agree to sign" an agreement that "confiscates the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people."

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state – Israel – was declared inside historical Palestine.

In 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Arafat declared the existence of a State of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the State's belief "in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations."

Heralded as a "historic compromise," the move implied that Palestinians would agree to accept only 22 percent, believed to have become 17 percent after massive Israeli settlement building, of historic Palestine in exchange for peace with Israel.

Numerous Palestinian factions, including Hamas, as well as pro-Palestine advocates support a one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would be treated equally, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable and that it would mean recognizing a state of Israel on territories seized forcefully by Zionists before 1967.

They also believe that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won't solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.

Meanwhile, Abu Marzouk said Hamas was looking forward to working within the Palestinian unity government.

Palestinian reconciliation has already been accomplished, Abu Marzouk added, confirming that his movement was willing to put into effect every single term of the reconciliation agreement.

The national unity deal signed on April 23 between the PLO and Hamas has come under intense pressure since, especially as critics say Israel has sought to undermine the deal through a massive arrest campaign targeting Hamas members across the West Bank over the summer, as well as the seven-week assault on Gaza.

Despite Israeli attempts at stoking discord within the Palestinian unity government, Palestinian officials continued to stress on the need to stay committed to the reconciliation.

Moreover, regarding Hamas' alleged regional plans, Abu Marzouk said that Blair’s “assumptions” were not based on any evidence.

“Where are the alleged agendas and plans?” he asked.

He also reiterated that Hamas cared about Egypt's security and stability and would never intervene in Egypt’s internal affairs.

An Egyptian court last month banned Hamas’ armed wing and listed the movement as a terrorist organization.

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian authorities have also declared a terrorist group and have repressed systematically since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohammed Mursi, from the presidency in 2013.

Egypt had previously banned Hamas from operating in Egypt.

Egyptian officials claim weapons are smuggled from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into Egypt, where they end up with militant groups fighting to topple the Western-backed Cairo government.
Islamist militants based in Egypt's Sinai region, which has a border with Gaza, have killed hundreds of police and soldiers since Mursi's political demise. The insurgency has spread to other parts of Egypt, the most populous Arab country.

The Palestinian faction has repeatedly denied accusations that it has carried out attacks in the North African state, saying it cannot act against Egypt's national security.

Since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rose to power in Egypt in 2013 and was elected president, the country’s relationship with the besieged Gaza Strip has worsened.

In November, Egypt decided to create a one kilometer-deep buffer zone in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with Gaza by clearing more than 800 houses, displacing more than 1,100 families, and destroying and neutralizing hundreds of subterranean tunnels.

Gaza, which has been under a brutal illegal Israeli blockade for almost eight years, relied heavily on smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border to obtain vital supplies. The only border crossing between Egypt and Gaza has also been routinely closed, leaving many Palestinians stranded or without access to important medical treatment.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)

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