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July 23, 2012

Hamas mulls Gaza as separate entity

Senior Hamas official in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar. (UPI Photo/Ismael Mohamad)

GAZA (UPI) -- Hamas is considering declaring the Gaza Strip a separate entity from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper said.

Unnamed Hamas officials told the newspaper the new Egyptian regime with President Mohamed Morsi as its head is likely to support such a move, which would allow Gaza to cut commercial ties with Israel, the officials said.

"Our relations with the new Egyptian regime are based on a balance of needs. The Gaza Strip needs a commercial pathway with Egypt and Egypt needs someone to maintain the security on its eastern front," one official told the paper.

However, senior Hamas official in Gaza Mahmoud Zahar denied the report to the Ma'an news agency, saying: "Such news is being disseminated by the enemies of Hamas seeking to maintain the siege on Gaza." Zahar said the issue has not been addressed in Hamas ranks but added, "Some people posed it privately on their own."

Hamas has been considering such a move for some time but delayed making a decision because of fierce opposition by the former Egyptian regime and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, the newspaper said.

The issue was discussed at a meeting last week in Cairo between Morsi and Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal. Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, is expected to discuss the issue when he meets Morsi in Cairo next week, the paper said.

In the past year Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met several times with key Hamas officials in an effort to form a unity government. Despite signing an agreement last year in Cairo the sides have failed to move forward on the issue.

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