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Middle East

Hamas would accept peace deal if approved by referendum

media Ismail Haniyeh, Prime Minister of Hamas, celebrates the 22nd anniversary … Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

In an apparent shift in policy, Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday that the group would honour a peace deal with Israel if it was approved by the Palestinian people in a referendum. The Islamist movement has previously refused to accept both the legitimacy of Israel as well as any peace treaty negotiated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Haniyeh made the statement at a rare press conference with foreign journalists, adding that Hamas “will respect the results of a referendum even if the results conflict with Hamas’s positions”.

Israeli response has been sceptical, with an anonymous government official saying that Haniyeh never explicitly said that Hamas would be prepared to end its conflict with Israel should such a referendum be passed, according to AFP.

"They never say that a Palestinian state living alongside Israel will be enough for them, but rather that they will accept it," the anonymous official told AFP. "Notice that he never says that they will then be willing to live with Israel after that."

Haniyeh said that he did not think that peace discussions would create an agreement.

“There won't be a solution with two states on the land... Israel wants the land, peace, and security with us and this is something impossible," said Haniyeh.

Haniyeh also said that “Al-Qaeda is not present in the Gaza Strip” and that Hamas works to ensure that “the main resistance groups do not act outside of Gaza or Palestine”.

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