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Hamas rejects US demands to disarm and recognise Israel

Gaza leader says no one can force group's hand, hours after US backed Israeli demands for disarmament and recognition
Palestinians celebrate after Hamas said it had reached a deal with Palestinian rival Fatah (AFP)

Gaza's prime minister said on Thursday that "no one" can force Hamas to disarm or recognise the state of Israel, after a top American diplomat demanded it meet those conditions as part of a unity government.

"No one in the universe can disarm us," said Yahya Sinwar, who was a military leader in al-Qassam brigades before being elected as prime minister in February.

"On the contrary, we will continue to have the power to protect our citizens. No one has the ability to extract from us recognition of the occupation."

His statement came hours after a top aide to US President Donald Trump demanded both before an emerging Palestinian unity government could engage in talks with Israel. 

"Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognise the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties - including to disarm terrorists - and commit to peaceful negotiations," Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special representative for international negotiations, said in a statement.

"If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements," he added in the first detailed US response to last week's Palestinian unity deal.

In response Hamas accused the US of "blatant interference" over the comments.

"This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests," senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told AFP, accusing the US of bowing to pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government.

The statement from Greenblatt was similar to the Israeli government's response this week in which it vowed not to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the group agrees to a list of demands.

The demands included recognising Israel and renouncing violence.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas in Cairo a week ago aimed at ending a bitter 10-year split.

The Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organisation has recognised Israel, but Hamas has not and is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the US and the European Union.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade.

Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years.

Hamas has run the Gaza Strip since seizing it in a near civil war with Fatah in 2007 following a dispute over elections won by the movement.

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