A top Hamas official warned Saturday against what he said were the consequences of breaking ranks with Hamas policy toward Israel. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said that anyone who fires rockets from Gaza into Israel is a "rebel."
In an interview with the Arabic language daily Al Hayat, quoted by Israel's Channel 10 Saturday, Zahar explained that Hamas vowed to adhere to a cease-fire agreement reached with Israel following Israel's assault on the Strip in late 2008.
"Did we agree to the truce in order to stick to it, or to violate it?," Zahar said. "Do they expect us to give a round of applause to people who rebel against their organization?" he asked, referring to so-called rebels firing rockets in violation of the truce.
Referring to Hamas' stance toward the launches, Zahar said that allowing "to open the gates of defiance could lead to anarchy."
The Hamas strongman also denied claims that Syria and Iran had been disrupting attempts to reach reconciliation between Hamas and the rival Fatah, which rules the West Bank, saying such reports were "irrational."
Zahar also denied claims that Hamas had been systematically and brutally violating human rights in the territory, instead blaming Fatah for "turning to Israel and committing crimes against the Palestinian people."
On Thursday, Zahar warned Israel against launching a large- scale offensive against the Gaza Strip, saying the Islamist group seriously considered "Israel's threats to launch another war on Gaza, but we frankly say if Israel tries to enter Gaza, it will cost it a lot and it won't be able to achieve its goals."
Israel had accused Hamas movement, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since June 2007, of trying to get more arms and weapons to the salient to use in carrying out attacks against Israeli territory.
"It is the right of Hamas to have all kinds of weapons to defend itself," Zahar said. "If Israel carries out another war in the future, it should think thousand of times before carrying out a war."
He said that Israel "exaggerates that armed organizations have various kinds of weapons to find an excuse to strike again on the Gaza Strip."
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