Netanyahu praises U.S. for backing Israel's stance on Hamas

U.S. Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt seen during a visit on the border with the Gaza Strip

Hamas should disarm and recognize Israel if it is to join a Palestinian unity government with rival group Fatah, the United States' Mideast envoy said Thursday.

"The United States reiterates the importance of adhering to the principles of the Quartet for the Middle East: "any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties - including to disarm terrorists - and commit to peaceful negotiations", Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special representative for worldwide negotiations", Greenblatt said in a statement.

In a statement, Hamas said it "rejected" Greenblatt's comments.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and has vowed to continue its struggle until the Jewish State is no more, has already issued a protest suggesting the demands of the USA envoy constitute "blatant interference" in a purely Palestinian issue.

The envoy added, however, that any Palestinian reconciliation deal that would allow this to happen - like the one signed last week in Cairo - must simultaneously commit Hamas, which has governed Gaza for the last decade, to a policy of non-violence.

The U.S., the Quartet of Nations working on Israel-Palestinian negotiations, and Israeli officials all agree "that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine, and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there".

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Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years. I once again emphasize the stance of our government: "Israel will not conduct negotiations with a Palestinian government that relies on a terror organization like Hamas until it disarms, recognizes Israel, and returns to us our kidnapped citizens and soldiers".

Hamas has been in complete political and military control of the Gaza since it seized control of the Strip from Abbas's Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, in a bloody battle in 2007.

In a statement on Tuesday after a meeting of senior Israeli ministers known as the Security Cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed longstanding Israeli demands that Hamas abandon militancy. Last week, the sides announced a preliminary agreement to put the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority back in charge of Gaza.

"Hamas asserts that it is moving ahead with the implementation of all reconciliation steps and will not pay attention to any attempt to sabotage or disrupt this path".

The number of Israelis that were transferred to live in the occupied West Bank rose from 111,000 to 750,000 since the accords were signed, according to Palestinian statistics.

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