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Israel Won’t Negotiate With Hamas-Backed Palestinian Government

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said on Tuesday it would not hold peace negotiations with a Palestinian government dependent on the Islamist Hamas group, responding to a new reconciliation agreement between the two main Palestinian factions.

Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction sealed a deal last week in which Hamas agreed to cede administrative control of Gaza.

In a statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed longstanding Israeli demands that Hamas abandon militancy.

“Pursuant to previous decisions, (Israel) will not conduct diplomatic negotiations with a Palestinian government that relies on Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel, as long as it does not fulfill the following conditions,” the statement began.

It outlined seven conditions, including a demand that Hamas recognize Israel and disarm, sever its ties with Iran, return bodies of Israeli soldiers and civilians Israel believes are alive and held in Gaza, and that the Palestinian Authority assume full security control of the coastal enclave.

Under the reconciliation deal, about 3,000 Fatah security officers are to join the Gaza police force but Hamas will remain the most powerful armed Palestinian faction in the territory, with some 25,000 well-equipped militants.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said the Palestinians would not be swayed by Israel’s statement as it “will not change the official Palestinian position to move forward with reconciliation efforts.”

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