‘THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE CANNOT BE DIVIDED’ – Hamas refutes Gaza independence reports


SENIOR Hamas official Mahmoud Zahhar on Sunday denied media reports that the Islamist resistance group is considering declaring the Gaza Strip a separate entity from the Palestinian Authority controlled West Bank.

‘Such news is being disseminated by the enemies of Hamas seeking to maintain the siege on Gaza,’ Zahhar stressed.

He added: ‘This issue hasn’t been addressed officially within Hamas, but some people posed it privately on their own.’

He was responding to a report published in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat on Sunday, alleging that Hamas was considering declaring Gaza a separate entity from the PA-controlled West Bank.

According to the report, Hamas officials said Egypt would back the move, which would also see improved trade ties between both parties.

Mahmoud Zahhar said the issue was not discussed with the Egyptians at all, adding that recent Hamas delegation meetings with the Egyptian leadership were positive.

An Egyptian committee is scheduled to visit the Gaza Strip within a week to study the mechanisms needed to end the siege on the coastal enclave, Zahhar said.

The Gaza Strip will soon be connected to Egypt’s power grid and a pipeline is set to be installed to provide natural gas to the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Hamas official added.

He said: ‘These issues were discussed in Cairo, but implementation will take a while given the fact that Egypt’s situation has not stabilised yet.’

Hamas political bureau chairman Khaled Mishaal met new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Thursday and hailed his election as the start of a ‘new era’ for Egypt and the Palestinians.

The founding of Hamas was inspired by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, but Hamas now operates independently because of its location and the conflict with Israel.

Hamas has yet to see any sign of a policy shift since the election of Morsi, who is keen not to upset Egypt’s ally, the United States.

Mishaal said Egypt’s presidency and intelligence services would continue to shepherd a reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah that began last year.

Hamas’s international relations official Osama Hamdan also denied media reports alleging his movement would declare the independence of the Gaza Strip, describing such news as ‘completely untrue’.

Hamdan asserted, in exclusive statements to Quds Press on Sunday, that what Hamas and all the Palestinians seek from strengthening and developing ties with Egypt is liberating Palestine and not dividing it.

He added: ‘We all agree that Gaza is no longer under Israeli occupation.

‘However the rumours on Hamas’s intention to declare Gaza’s independence are completely untrue as the Palestinian cause cannot be divided.’

Mishaal left Cairo on Saturday night at the conclusion of a visit during which he met with Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and other officials.

Mishaal met on Saturday evening with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu for a discussion of overall Palestinian developments.

They also discussed national reconciliation, means of confronting the Israeli occupation’s challenges and measures, and a number of regional and international developments.

During his visit to Cairo, Mishaal met on Saturday with the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, and secretary-general of the organisation of Islamic cooperation Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.

Mishaal discussed with the two officials the latest developments in the Palestinian arena, especially the inter-Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

Mishaal highlighted the issue of occupied Jerusalem and the dangers threatening the Al-Aqsa Mosque during his meeting with Ihsanoglu.

In another context, Muslim Brotherhood official Mohamed Badie congratulated, over the phone, speaker of the Palestinian legislative council, Aziz Dweik, on his release from an Israeli jail.

Badie renewed Egypt’s full support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for their rights and freedom.

l Gunshots fired across the border from Egypt on Sunday hit an Israeli army bus but caused no casualties, an Israeli military spokeswoman said.

The attack, in the central sector of the desert frontier, may heighten Israeli fears of an erosion of security in the Egyptian Sinai given the political upheaval in Cairo.

In a separate incident, a Sinai pipeline built to supply Israel and Jordan with gas was blown up in a separate incident on Sunday, the 15th such sabotage since the start of the popular revolt that toppled the US-aligned Egyptian president Husni Mubarak in February last year.

A powerful explosion ripped through the Egyptian pipeline in northern Sinai Peninsula.

No casualties were reported in the explosion that took place to the east of El-Arish city in northern Sinai at the early morning hours of Sunday.

Most Egyptians do not favour the gas deal signed between the former regime of Husni Mubarak and Israel. Many Egyptians charged that Israel was not paying a fair price for the Egyptian gas.

The consortium of Egyptian petroleum companies, which had signed the deal with Israel, recently terminated the deal with Israel for failure of the latter to live up to its commitments.

l Power cuts continued across Egypt despite promises by officials from the electricity and energy ministries that the crisis will gradually ease.

Activists on Facebook called on the ministries to announce plans for load shedding beforehand so that the people can store the amount of water they need and protect their machines from damage.

An unnamed official told Egyptian media that work is ongoing to provide for the needs of citizens and called on people to ration their electricity consumption.

Electricity companies did not resort to load shedding on Friday and Saturday, the source said, adding that electricity is not exported at peak hours of consumption.

The official also said work is ongoing to generate an additional 1,800 megawatts of energy.

Meanwhile, residents of several villages in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena threatened not to pay their electricity bills and to sue their provider due to the frequent power outages.

Young people from several villages organised a campaign titled ‘We will not Pay’ to call on residents not to pay their bills as long as the service is not stable and causes citizens’ machines to break down, water to be cut off and food to go bad.

In Sharqiya, hundreds of angry residents from Bardeen village in Zaqaziq blocked the Belbeis-Zaqaziq Road to object the unstable supply of electricity.

Minister of Petroleum Abdallah Ghorab said last Friday that over-consumption and illegal electricity hookups are a burden on the state.

He added that for the first time additional demand for electricity has exceeded the 3,000 megawatt barrier, ratcheting up to 27-28,000 megawatts per day.

Ghorab called on citizens to conserve electricity to avoid forcing the state to implement its policy of load shedding.

l About 100 Palestinians residing in Damascus have arrived in Cairo en route to the Gaza Strip, as violence between the Syrian government forces and western-backed armed gangs intensifies, Egyptian officials said on Sunday.

The Palestinian embassy in Cairo is liaising with Egyptian authorities to allow the Palestinians into Egypt after they left Syria without applying for visas due to the unstable situation.

The Palestinians are not registered as refugees in Syria, but rather Gaza residents living there.