The peace-loving pee-pull in the hip-hop club-rocking groove on, known as Hamas, have promised that they will continue attacks against Israelis, despite plans to withdraw settlements and military bases from the Gaza Strip, a top Hamas leader in Gaza said Saturday.
“We do not trust the Israelis and we do not trust that the Israelis are going to withdraw from Gaza while they are speaking of controlling the sea and the air. Until the occupation completely ends, our resistance will continue,” Mahmoud al-Zahar said.
“Evacuating the Gaza Strip does not mean the end of the Israeli occupation, therefore, we need answers regarding the issue of prisoners, borders, water resources, airspace and economic trade as soon as possible,” he added.
“The only guarantee we can give so far is the continuation of the resistance,” he said.
Al-Zahar’s comments came as Egyptian officials worked on an agreement for maintaining security in Gaza, Hamas’ stronghold, in the wake of the planned pullback.
Egypt has offered to send security advisers to Gaza to help train and equip Palestinian forces, but al-Zahar said he rejected the proffered assistance.
“We are against any sort of commitment to any security steps on any side,” al-Zahar told reporters in Gaza City. “We are still in the resistance … to free our land from the occupation.”
However, al-Zahar later said Hamas leaders abroad were expected to begin talks with Egyptian officials within several days.
Al-Zahar spoke before a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, who made a rare trip to Gaza to meet with the heads of the various Palestinian security branches and members of Palestinian political and militant groups.
It was al-Zahar’s first public appearance since the funeral of Hamas’ Gaza leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who was assassinated by Israel in April. Al-Zahar is one of Hamas’ top leaders in Gaza. Many Hamas leaders have gone into hiding since then, though it is considered unlikely Israel would target Hamas leaders during a meeting with Qureia.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s cabinet approved a plan Sunday to evacuate settlements and soldiers from the volatile coastal strip by the end of 2005. Under the plan, Israel would maintain control of Gaza’s coast, airspace and border with Egypt.
Al-Zahar said that the continued Israeli presence was unacceptable. He did leave open the possibility that Hamas, which rejects the existence of Israel and hopes to replace it with an Islamic state, could change its position.
“When we hear something concrete, about full sovereignty, we will think about what is proposed to us,” he said. “At this moment, our position stands firm. Our endeavor is a liberation endeavor, and if this liberation is not a full and comprehensive one, our endeavor will continue.”
In addition to sending security advisers to Gaza, Egypt intends to increase the number of troops on its side of the border with Gaza and to help build new police stations and jails in the territory.
Egypt has also demanded Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat reorganize the nearly one dozen Palestinian security forces into three branches and give up much of his control over them.
Al-Zahar also warned Arab leaders not to cooperate with U.S. President George Bush, and called on them all to reject his proposals for reform in the Arab world.