Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar vehemently denied a report in the London-based Al Hayat newspaper that the terrorist organization plans to declare itself an independent state.
"Such news is being disseminated by the enemies of Hamas seeking to maintain the siege on Gaza," Zahar told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency. "This issue hasn’t been addressed officially within Hamas, but some people posed it privately on their own," he added.
Zahar explained that the planned meetings this week are to explore developing trade with Egypt and connecting Gaza to Egypt’s power grid and natural gas pipeline.
Al Hayat reported that de facto Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will talk with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi this Thursday to promote the idea. Hamas officials allegedly said that Egypt’s support of establishing Gaza as an independent state would allow Hamas to close the crossings with Israel and to develop the trade route with Egypt through Rafiah. In return, Hamas supposedly would help secure the border with Egypt.
The idea of declaring Gaza as an independent country has been tossed around within Hamas for at least two years, but Egypt previously has blocked the move.
Al Hayat quoted unnamed Hamas officials as saying the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt has paved the way for putting the option back on the table. However, doing so would likely cause difficulties in relations between Egypt and the United States, which has declared Hamas to be an illegal terrorist organization.
In addition, independence for Gaza would throw the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority into turmoil. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, head of Hamas’s rival Fatah faction, has failed to win unilateral recognition by the international community as a new Arab country within Israel’s current borders.