The head of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said Thursday that no country can force it to disarm and recognize Israel.
"No one in the universe can disarm us. On the contrary, we will continue to have the power to protect our citizens," Sinwar said during a speech provided to Agence France-Presse news agency.
"No one has the ability to extract from us recognition of the occupation."
He was responding after US President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy demanded that Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the US, European Union and Israel, first meet those conditions if it wants to play a role in any Palestinian government.
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Jason Greenblatt's statement on Thursday was the first comment by the US on last week's reconciliation deal between the Palestinian rival factions Fatah and Hamas.
"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," Greenblatt said in a statement.
"If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements."
In a statement in response to Greenblatt's remarks, Hamas said it rejected "the extortion and American bias toward the Israeli positions expressed."
"Hamas will go ahead in the reconciliation and will not pay attention to any attempt to sabotage or block this track," it said.
Israel has been unsuccessfully making similar demands of Hamas for a long time. It reiterated its stand last week, vowing not to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist group agreed to its demands.
A landslide victory for Hamas in 2006 elections sparked clashes between the two Palestinian factions. It led to the dissolution of a tenuous unity government and Hamas governing the Gaza Strip and Fatah the West Bank.
Last Thursday, the two rival factions signed a preliminary agreement to form a unity government aimed at ending the bitter decade-long split.
The Egypt-mediated deal, if implemented, would see the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled by Fatah take over governing in the Gaza Strip by December 1.
Among the unresolved issues is Hamas' refusal to disarm. The Islamist group has a 25,000-strong armed wing.
Greenblatt is in Cairo to meet with senior officials there to discuss the status of reconciliation efforts, Associated Press news agency reported, citing anonymous Egyptian airport officials.
ap/se (AP, AFP, dpa)