In Brief

Hamas softens its stance on Israel

New policy document declares willingness to accept interim Palestinian state within pre-1967 boundaries

170501-wd-hamas.jpg

Palestinian militant group Hamas will drop its longstanding call for the destruction of Israel and dissociate itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, according to its new policy document.

In contrast to its original charter, the group will accept the formation of a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

It will also "call for a battle against Israel rather than a war of extermination against all Jews", Israel's Haaretz newspaper reports.

However, the policy document does not recognise the state of Israel and fails to renounce violence, maintaining that Palestinians have the right to resist occupation.

Al Jazeera reports the report "falls well short of accepting the two-state solution that is assumed to be the end product of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the new policy as a "smokescreen".

He said: "The day Hamas stops digging tunnels and diverts its resources to civilian infrastructure and stops educating children to hate Israelis, that would be real change."

Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, is classified as a terrorist group by most western nations following decades of armed attacks against Israel.

But spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said they wanted to shed the radical image and engage with the international community, especially Gulf Arab states.

He said: "To the world, our message is: Hamas is not radical. We are a pragmatic and civilised movement. We do not hate the Jews. We only fight who occupies our lands and kills our people."

According to the New York Times, Hamas is seeking "to present a more moderate public face" as it struggles for control among Palestinians with its main rival, the Palestinian Authority.

It also notes the timing of the announcement, which comes days before Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas meets US President Donald Trump in Washington.

"In distancing itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, analysts said Hamas was likely to improve its often-strained relationship with Egypt, even if it was unlikely to open the border between Egypt and Gaza for trade," the newspaper adds.

Others say the move is unlikely to alter international attitudes.

Abdelrahman Ayyash, a researcher on Islamist movements based in Istanbul, said the new policy was a "huge step" for Hamas, but added: "I think they should temper their expectations about the reaction."

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