UK & World News

  • 24 April 2014, 23:01

Israel: Hamas Unity Deal 'Kills Peace Process'

Israel has officially suspended US-sponsored peace talks after rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas ended a seven-year split to create a united government.

The decision to suspend talks was reached after a six-hour meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Security Council in Jerusalem.

"The government of Israel will not hold negotiations with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas, a terror organisation that calls for Israel's destruction," a statement released after the meeting said.

It comes a day after the two Palestinian factions announced they will attempt to form an interim government within weeks.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are set to be held as early as the end of November.

Mr Netanyahu accused Palestinian leaders of killing the peace process with the deal and urged President Mahmoud Abbas to reconsider the pact.

"I will never negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by a terrorist organisation committed to our destruction," Mr Netanyahu told NBC News.

"(Mr Abbas) still has the opportunity to reverse the course ... to abandon this pact.

"I hope he does because if we encounter a Palestinian leadership, and a Palestinian government, that is ready to pursue genuine peace negotiations, we are going to be there. I am going to be there."

Relations between Hamas and Fatah have been damaged by seven years of internal bickering and unsuccessful reconciliation attempts.

Hamas seized Gaza from Mr Abbas' forces in 2007, leaving him to control only parts of the West Bank.

Both sides have since become entrenched in their territories, setting up their own governments and security forces.

Israel, the United States, the European Union and many other nations consider Hamas to be a terrorist group, although others do not.

Reacting to the deal, the US said it would reconsider aid to Mr Abbas' Palestinian Authority if a united government goes ahead.

The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been championed by US Secretary of State John Kerry and are aimed at ending decades of conflict.

Both sides are at odds over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as Mr Abbas's refusal to accept demands to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

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