Hamas Has Vested Interest in Maintaining Calm With Israel, Official Says

In interview with Israel Radio, Ghazi Hamad denies report of negotiations about long term truce, but says group not looking to renew conflict.

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Hamas official Ghazi Hamad in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. February 8, 2007
Hamas official Ghazi Hamad in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. February 8, 2007 Credit: AP
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Haaretz

A senior Hamas official says the de facto rulers of Gaza Strip have a vested interest in maintaining the shaky clam with Israel, one year after a devastating war left over 2,000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis dead.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Hamas deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad said that Hamas "doesn’t want another war" and has "an interest in keeping the calm in Gaza." Hamad claimed that there was no chance that Hamas' military wing would work to escalate the situation.

Hamad denied reports that secret negotiations were being held between Israel and the Gaza group about a long-term truce, but refused to comment on whether there were talks to see the bodies of IDF soldiers killed in last summer's Operation Protective Edge returned to Israel for burial.

The Hamas official also commented on faltering attempts to rebuilding the Strip, which was severely damaged in last summer's conflict, saying the situation in Gaza was severe.

"I can say that the situation in Gaza is bad We are living in a jail here," he told the Israeli radio channel in Hebrew.

Israel maintains construction materials needed for the process must be closely monitored, arguing that Hamas is again digging offesnive tunnels for which it needs cement and steel. However, Hamad said that the black market in Gaza allowed the materials to be procured, but denied they were being used by the group's military wing.

Hamas, an Islamist group that seized power in Gaza in 2007, has faced recently threats from Salafist and ISIS-linked militants. Last Tuesday, Islamic State militants released a video threatening to turn Gaza into another "fiefdom", as in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Israel and Egypt have coordinated to put pressure on Hamas, with Israel enforcing a blockade of Gaza and limiting the flow of goods and people, while Egypt has largely closed the Rafah border crossing.

Cairo considers Hamas's armed wing a terrorist organization, though an Egyptian court last month canceled a similar ruling against Hamas as a whole.

Reuters contributed to this report

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