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Hamas accuses US ambassador to UN of 'political bullying'

Hamas spokesman slams Washington's accusations of responsibility for dire humanitarian situation in Gaza
Palestinians protesting in Gaza
Palestinians protest against Israel's debilitating blockade of Gaza Strip (AFP/File photo)
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Hamas accused the US ambassador to the United Nations of "political bullying" after Washington's envoy said the Palestinian group was responsible for the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said on Wednesday that Kelly Craft's comments were "lies, fabrications, and political bullying", designed to help conceal Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

During a meeting at the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Craft said Hamas was responsible for Gaza, which has been suffering under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade and a half.

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"They are willing to subject the Palestinian people to despair and perpetual conflict to fulfill their violent vision," Craft said during a Security Council briefing, referring to Hamas. "Trapped in such a cycle of madness, it is not surprising that the youth in Gaza have lost hope."

Following the victory of Hamas in 2006 legislative elections and internecine fighting that followed a year later, Gaza was left under the control of a Hamas-led administration that is separate from the Palestinian Authority operating in the occupied West Bank.

Since 2007, Israel has imposed the debilitating blockade on the Strip - now supported by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi - leaving about 80 percent of Palestinians in the coastal enclave reliant on international aid.

More than one million people live on $3.50 or less a day. The sea, once a vital source of income for Gaza residents, is subject to ever-changing restrictions on sailing and fishing rights.

The UN meeting came after Michael Lynk, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories, called Israel's 13-year blockade a "serious violation against Palestinians".

"The extent of the devastating impact of Israel's collective punishment policy can be most strikingly seen in its ongoing 13-year-old closure of Gaza, which now suffers from a collapsed economy, devastated infrastructure, and a barely functioning social service system," Lynk said.