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Olmert does not want Gaza, W.Bank division
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09:50, July 11, 2007

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday he does not want Palestinians divided into two separate political entities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where the Islamist group Hamas seized control last month.

"The solution remains two peoples, two states - a Palestinian state and a Jewish state," Olmert told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

"We are not stupid. We don't want to separate Gaza from the West Bank. We know that a million and a half Palestinians live in the Strip. How can they be separated from the others?"

Hamas, which has rejected Western demands to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing Israeli-Palestinian interim peace accords, took over the Gaza Strip last month after routing secular Fatah forces loyal to the West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian president then expelled Hamas from the unity government and formed an emergency Cabinet in the West Bank.

Olmert told Spain's leading newspaper, El Pais, in an interview published yesterday that Hamas is a "destructive, extremist force" with the sole aim of violent confrontation with Israel.

He said he does not foresee any reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas of Fatah, who he says once told him that he would never make peace with the militant group and would always combat it.

"I personally do not believe in a reconciliation between Hamas and Abu Mazen," Olmert was quoted as saying, referring to Abbas' nickname. "Abu Mazen himself has been a witness of how they were preparing to kill Palestinians with such brutality that I've never seen in my life."

The rival Palestinian factions traded more accusations this week. Abbas claimed that Hamas had allowed al-Qaida members to enter Gaza. Hamas denied the accusation and said Abbas was trying to whip up sentiment against them.

Source: China Daily/agencies

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