Gaza's Hamas rulers are committed to making good on a long-awaited reconciliation deal with their Fatah rivals, a spokesman for the Islamist movement said on Tuesday.
"Hamas is committed to making the reconciliation agreement work and implementing it as a demonstration of the unity of the Palestinian people in the face of occupation," said Sami Abu Zuhri.
Speaking at a news conference to mark three years since the start of Operation Cast Lead, Israel's devastating 22-day offensive against the enclave, Abu Zuhri said negotiations with the Jewish state had "only brought our people harm."
"The occupation is trying to bargain with us over negotiations and we say: 'We don't want them,'" he said, referring to Israeli threats to pull the plug on talks with the Palestinians should Fatah and Hamas reconcile their differences and form a unity government.
"The occupation's threat that there will not be any negotiations after the reconciliation is a great achievement of the resistance," he said.
Since 2007, the Palestinian territories have been politically divided into two separate territories, with the Fatah of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas largely ruling the West Bank and Hamas governing Gaza.
In May, following years of bitter rivalry, the two factions signed a reconciliation deal whose implementation has since stalled.
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Last week, Abbas met Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Cairo and the two agreed on a process that would pave the way for the Islamist group to join a reformed Palestine Liberation Organisation and for long-delayed Palestinian elections.
Speaking to AFP shortly after the meeting, a member of the Hamas politburo in Damascus confirmed that the faction had taken the strategic decision to join the PLO under Abbas's leadership.
"We in Hamas support him after all the doors have been closed in his face, and we will not give up on him as we are all in the same boat and our goal is to end the occupation," he told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Strengthening Abbas would strengthen all the Palestinians, he said. "The president's power is power for all of us, and Hamas will not get weaker but stronger.
"Hamas should work with president Abbas and it now supports the fact that Fatah should be strong and coherent, not weak. Fatah's strength is important to us, and our strength is important to them."
Last week, Hamas took part in the first meeting of the PLO temporary leadership committee, a body formed in 2005 which is charged with reforming organisation to allow the participation of the Islamist groups and other factions.
It was the first time Hamas has participated in a committee allied to the PLO, which is internationally recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.