A Hamas official says the movement will lay down its arms if the two-state solution is implemented

ISTANBUL (AP) — A senior Hamas political official told The Associated Press that the armed Islamist group is prepared to agree to a truce of five years or more with Israel and that it will lay down its arms and turn into a political party if an independent Palestinian state is established on pre-existing borders. 1967.

Khalil Al-Hayya's statements came in an interview on Wednesday Amid a stalemate in months of ceasefire talks in Gaza. The proposal to disarm Hamas appeared to be a major concession on the part of the militant group officially committed to the destruction of Israel.

But Israel is unlikely to consider such a scenario. It pledged to crush Hamas After the deadly October 7 attacks Which sparked the war, and its current leadership strongly opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state on the lands Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East War.

Al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official who represented Palestinian militants in negotiations for a ceasefire and hostage exchange, struck a tone that was sometimes defiant and conciliatory at other times.

Speaking to the AP in Istanbul, Al-Hayya said Hamas wants to join the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is headed by the rival Fatah movement, to form a unified government for Gaza and the West Bank. He said agitation It will accept “a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with international resolutions,” along Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

He added that if that happened, the group's military wing would be dissolved.

“All the experiences of the people who struggled against the occupiers, when they gained independence and obtained their rights and their state, what did these forces do? They have turned into political parties and the fighting forces defending them have turned into the national army.”

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official who represented the Palestinian militant group in negotiations for a ceasefire and hostage exchange agreement, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil red).

Over the years, Hamas At times she softened her public stance Regarding the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But its political platform still officially “rejects any alternative to the complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea” — a reference to the area stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which includes the lands that now constitute Israel.

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Al-Hayya did not clarify whether his apparent embrace of the two-state solution would mark an end to the Palestinian conflict with Israel or a temporary step toward the group's stated goal of destroying Israel.

There was no immediate reaction from Israel Or the Palestinian AuthorityIt is the internationally recognized self-rule government that was expelled by Hamas when it took control of Gaza in 2007, a year after it won the Palestinian parliamentary elections. After Hamas took control of Gaza, the Palestinian Authority was left to administer semi-autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority hopes to establish an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, areas occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. While the international community overwhelmingly supports the two-state solution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line government rejects it.

The war in Gaza has continued for nearly seven months and ceasefire negotiations have faltered. The war began with a deadly October 7 attack on southern Israel in which Hamas-led militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians. The gunmen dragged about 250 hostages to the enclave. The Israeli bombing and subsequent ground attack on Gaza led to the deaths of more than 34,000 Palestinians. Most of them are women and childrenAccording to Local health authoritiesIt caused the displacement of about 80% of Gaza's population of 2.3 million people.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official who represented the Palestinian militant group in negotiations for a ceasefire and hostage exchange agreement, sits in front of a backdrop showing the Old City of Jerusalem during an interview with The Associated Press.  In Istanbul, Türkiye, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official who represented the Palestinian militant group in negotiations for a ceasefire and hostage exchange agreement, sits in front of a backdrop showing the Old City of Jerusalem during an interview with The Associated Press. In Istanbul, Türkiye, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Israel is now preparing to attack In the city of Rafah in the south of the countryWhere more than a million Palestinians fled.

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Israel says it has dismantled most of the initial 24 Hamas brigades since the beginning of the war, but the remaining four brigades are holed up in Rafah. Israel claims that the attack on Rafah is necessary to achieve victory over Hamas.

Al-Hayya said that such an attack would not succeed in destroying Hamas. He said that communications between the political leadership abroad and the military leadership inside Gaza “are not interrupted” due to the war, and “communications, decisions and directives are made in consultation” between the two groups.

He stressed that the Israeli forces “did not destroy more than 20% of Hamas' capabilities, whether human or field.” He said, “If they cannot eliminate (Hamas), what is the solution? The solution is to go to consensus.”

In November, a week-long ceasefire saw the release of more than 100 hostages in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. But the talks are for a long-term truce and The release of the remaining hostages has now been frozenWhere each party accuses the other of intransigence. Qatar, the main interlocutor, said in recent days that it was conducting a “re-evaluation” of its role as a mediator.

Most of Hamas' senior political officials, who were previously based in Qatar, left the Gulf state last week and traveled to Turkey, where Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday. Al-Hayya denied that there was a permanent move by the movement's main political bureau, and said that Hamas wants to see Qatar continuing its role as a mediator in the talks.

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Israeli and American officials accused Hamas of not being serious about reaching an agreement.

Al-Hayya denied this, saying that Hamas had made concessions regarding the number of Palestinian prisoners it wanted to release in exchange for the release of the remaining Israeli hostages. He said that the movement does not know exactly how many hostages are still in Gaza and are still alive.

But he said that Hamas would not back down from its demand for a permanent ceasefire and complete withdrawal of Israeli forces, which was rejected by Israel. Israel says it will continue its military operations until Hamas is completely defeated and will maintain a security presence in Gaza after that.

“If we are not sure that the war will end, why would I hand over the prisoners?” The Hamas leader said of the remaining hostages.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official who represented the Palestinian militant group in negotiations for a ceasefire and hostage exchange agreement, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil red).

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official who represented the Palestinian militant group in negotiations for a ceasefire and hostage exchange agreement, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil red).

Al-Hayya also implicitly threatened that Hamas would attack Israeli forces or other forces that might be stationed About a floating dock The United States is striving to build along the Gaza coast to deliver aid by sea.

He said: “We categorically reject any non-Palestinian presence in Gaza, whether at sea or on land, and we will deal with any military force present in these places, Israeli or otherwise… as an occupying force.”

Al-Hayya said that Hamas does not regret the October 7 attacks, despite the devastation it caused to Gaza and its people. He denied that Hamas fighters targeted civilians during the attacks – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary – and said that the operation succeeded in achieving its goal of returning the world's attention to the Palestinian issue.

He said that Israeli attempts to eliminate Hamas would ultimately fail to prevent future armed Palestinian uprisings.

“Let's say they destroyed Hamas. Are the Palestinian people gone?” he asked.

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This story has been updated to correct the number of Palestinian prisoners released during the November ceasefire.

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AP correspondent Khalil Hamra in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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