|Gunmen from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in Gaza City on November 22, 2012 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)|
By Elhanan Miller
Hamas will not agree to dismantle the Al-Qassam Brigades as part of a reconciliation deal with rival movement Fatah, a Hamas official said Wednesday.
Moussa Abu-Marzouq, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, told his party’s newspaper Al-Resalah that reconciliation with Fatah could realistically unravel over the “security” issue, adding that Hamas will never agree to remove its armed wing from “the equation of confrontation with the occupation.”
Palestinian sources told the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi on Sunday that Fatah is demanding that Hamas dismantle its armed wing as a condition for reconciliation. Egypt, the paper reported, is concerned that negotiations between the two movements may collapse following Hamas’s insistence on leaving the Qassam Brigades intact and integrating them into the PA security forces.
Created in 1992, the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades turned Hamas from an organization primarily concerned with religious preaching and welfare to a terror group. The Brigades were the first Palestinian group to carry out a suicide attack against an Israeli target the following year and deadly suicide and rocket attacks continued throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The Brigades are listed as a terror group by the United States and the European Union.
Operation Pillar of Defense, launched by Israel against the Gaza Strip on November 14, followed the targeted killing of Ahmad Jaabari, the de facto commander of the Qassam Brigades.
Talks between Fatah and Hamas are set to resume in Cairo on Thursday. Fatah officials expressed hope that Hamas will now agree to allow the Palestinian Central Election Committee to register some 400,000 Palestinians who do not appear in the voter registry.
Regarding negotiations with Israel, Abu-Marzouq reiterated his party’s principled position. “Hamas has not and will never negotiate with Israel,” he told Al-Resalah, but said negotiations were a moot point, since Benjamin Netanyahu — who appears fated to win the upcoming Israeli elections — has no intention to resume them.
Abu-Ubaida, a spokesman for the Al-Qassam Brigades, was more explicit than Abu-Marzouq on the prospect of his organization’s dissolving.
“Dismantling the Al-Qassam Brigades or integrating them into the security forces is not up for discussion. We will not allow talk of it now or in the future,” Abu-Ubaida tweeted on Monday. “Those who contemplate erasing it will be erased from the pages of history.”