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Hamas calls for implementing 'national unity' deal

Hamas says Gaza reconstruction efforts are being used to 'blackmail' movement into disarming amid accusations of Israeli truce violations
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (AFP)

The exiled leader of the Palestinian movement Hamas called for the implementation of a unity agreement with Fatah on Friday, dismissing as untrue charges by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas that it was running a "shadow government" in Gaza.

"There is a national unity government; talk of a parallel government is totally against reality," Kahled Meshaal said after meeting Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki in the Tunisian capital.

Last week Abbas had threatened to break off the unity agreement with Hamas, alleging the movement was not allowing the government to operate in the Gaza Strip.

Meshaal said government ministries were still "operating normally" in Gaza even if the "government is absent from" the coastal enclave and urged the cabinet to be present.

"We welcome the government of national unity to work in Gaza, to take charge of crossing points and assume all its responsibilities in line with what we agreed upon."

In April, Hamas agreed to work with its rivals in Abbas's Fatah movement to form an interim consensus government of technocrats which would work towards long-delayed national elections.

The new cabinet took office on June 2, with Gaza's Hamas government officially stepping down the same day.

But a spat erupted after an open-ended ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect in Gaza on August 26, following a major 50-day Israeli military offensive against the strip.

'Political blackmail'

Meanwhile, Hamas leader and former Palestinian premier Ismail Haniyeh accused unspecified parties of "political blackmail" by attempting to make the reconstruction of Gaza contingent on the disarming of the group.

"We will not accept this bartering", Ismail Haniyeh said on Saturday.

Haniyeh said a decision had been taken within Hamas to avoid "a descent into political squabbles and mud-slinging in the media with Fatah."

Haniyeh also demanded that Egypt, which brokered the recent ceasefire deal with Israel, supervise the truce and ensure that Tel Aviv adheres to its side of the deal.

He was speaking after the Palestinian Fishermen’s Union reported on Saturday that Israeli naval forces had fired on Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, in a violation of the ceasefire agreement.

As part of the ceasefire, Israel agreed to allow Gazan fishing boats to venture six miles off the coast, but last week the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry accused the Israeli navy of reducing the fishing zone to five nautical miles.

Exiled Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq on Thursday said the group could be forced to negotiate directly with Israel -- something it has never done before.

But Meshaal said this would not happen.

"Direct negotiations with the Israeli occupier is not on the agenda of Hamas; if negotiations are necessary they must be indirect," he said.

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