Hamas will never recognize Israel and will not accept the conditions laid out by the Middle East peacemaking Quartet, according to the Islamist movement's deputy leader.
Speaking late on Saturday, Mussa Abu Marzuq said Hamas, which recently signed a reconciliation deal with the Western-backed Palestinian leadership in Judea and Samaria, would never agree to recognize Israel.
"We will not recognize the Zionist entity," he said at a press conference in Gaza City.
Under terms of the deal, Gaza's Hamas rulers and the Palestine Liberation Organisation of Mahmud Abbas are to work together to form a new unity government which will prepare for national elections.
But Israel reacted furiously, saying it would not negotiate with any government backed by Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and accusing Abbas of effectively putting the final nail in the coffin of the latest round of US-brokered peace talks.
Recognizing Israel is one of the key conditions laid out in the 2003 peacemaking roadmap of the Middle East Quartet, which brings together the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.
The other two key demands are a renunciation of violence and acceptance of all prior agreements with Israel.
Abbas, who is to head the new government, to consist of political independents, has insisted it will abide by all three principles.
But Abu Marzuq said Hamas would never accept the Quartet's conditions.
"Hamas rejects the Quartet's conditions because it denies some of our people's rights," he told reporters. "We will always refuse any conditions that deny our Palestinian rights."
He also said the question of disarming Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, was "never mentioned" in talks with the PLO since the unity deal was inked on April 23.
"No one asked to discuss this," he said.
Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of Abbas's Fatah movement, which dominates the PLO, was to arrive in Gaza City on Sunday or Monday to begin consultations on forming the new government, he said.
"This will be a national consensus government that has nothing to do with politics and has specific tasks," he said of the preparations for long-overdue local, parliamentary and presidential elections.
Hamas would participate in both the municipal and legislative elections but has not yet decided whether it will run a presidential candidate.
Hamas won a landslide victory in the last parliamentary election, held in 2006, prompting a Western boycott of the Palestinian Authority.