Israel will pay an “unprecedented price” if it goes ahead with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Hamas has warned, saying the move would be a “declaration of war” on Palestinians.
In an Arabic-language video published on Thursday, Hamas spokesperson Abu Obeida said Israel’s plans were “criminal” and would amount to the “biggest theft of Palestinian land in decades.” He promised that Hamas, the Islamist group which Israel regards as a terrorist organization, will guard the sacred land and its people.
Hamas says annexation will be like declaring war
Obeida said the organization does not make many statements, but wanted to state clearly that “the resistance considers this decision a declaration of war on our Palestinian people.” He added that Israel would “regret bitterly” if it continued with the annexation and that “the occupation will pay an unprecedented price.”
“The resistance regards the annexation plan as a declaration of war on our people, and we will force the enemy to regret that decision,” threatens Hamas spokesperson Abu Obeida.pic.twitter.com/SoJPaXrNxV
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Earlier, on Monday, another senior Hamas official said the annexation project should be “confronted with resistance in all forms” and called for unity with the Palestinian Authority, despite divisions between the two. A statement called the annexation plans a “conspiracy woven by the Zionist occupation.”
Annexation has faced major condemnation
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aims to begin a process of annexing parts of the West Bank, where more than 420,000 Jewish settlers live, from July 1, as part of the US’ “vision for peace” initiative. The Palestinians have rejected the plan.
At the United Nations, Palestinian representative Riyad al-Malki said annexation would be a “crime.”
“Israel seems determined to ignore that big red stop sign the international community erected to save lives,” he said.
He warned that the Palestinians could approach the International Court of Justice and urged nations to impose sanctions on Israel if it goes ahead.
The United Nations recently condemned the decision, calling Netanyahu’s plan “unlawful” and expressed regret at the US’s support of the policy. The EU has also warned of a possible “reprisal” for Israel and said it would work to “discourage any possible initiative toward annexation.”
One week before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to start the annexation process, a UN Security Council session provided a final opportunity for the international community to urge him to change course.
The annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank would constitute a serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-State solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) June 24, 2020
“I call on the Israeli government to abandon its annexation plans,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the virtual conference.
The UN coordinator for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, said annexation “could irrevocably alter the nature of Israeli-Palestinian relations.”
“It risks upending more than a quarter of a century of international efforts in support of a future viable Palestinian state living in peace, security and mutual recognition with the State of Israel,” he said.
US continues its support
But the administration of President Donald Trump, a close ally of Netanyahu, has declined to criticise annexation and has rejected the consensus of most of the world that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are illegal.
“Decisions about Israelis extending sovereignty to those places are decisions for the Israelis to make,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Washington.
Trump in January unveiled a Middle East plan that would pave the way for Israel to annex areas around Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley that it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Palestinians, in turn, would have an independent state but one that is demilitarized with a capital on the outskirts of hostly contested Jerusalem.
The plan also calls for major economic investment into Palestinian areas, funded largely by Gulf Arab states that find common cause with Netanyahu and Trump in hostility toward Iran.
Declaring war could mean a nosedive in Hamas, Israel relations
In early April Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza, claimed he was especially concerned about humanitarian conditions in Israeli prisons during the coronavirus pandemic and was ready to negotiate.
Hamas is also believed to be holding two Israeli citizens who entered Gaza alone and whose families say they have mental health issues. Israel is meanwhile holding more than 5,000 Palestinians in its jails.
In the most recent prisoners swap, in 2001, Hamas and the Jewish state brokered a deal that saw more than 1,000 Palestinians released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured five years earlier.
Hamas declaring war on Israel is a step backwards in slowly improving relations between the two.
RT with additional input by GVS News Desk
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