April 20, 2024
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Kerry to Hamas: Give Up the Rockets or No Deal

TIP—Secretary of State John Kerry told the BBC on Tuesday that any moves to “open crossings and get food in and recon­struct and have greater freedom” in the Ha­mas-controlled Gaza Strip must be coupled “with a greater responsibility towards Israel, which means giving up rockets.” Jerusalem and the Palestinian terror group have been engaged in a several-month hot war, which escalated dramatically several weeks ago when Hamas activated its offensive tunnel network and dispatched over a dozen com­mandos against a sparsely populated and lightly defended Israeli border communi­ty. Kerry’s statement echoes comments by U.S. officials stretching back to the open­ing of the current round of hostilities, with Obama administration officials being ex­plicit that disarming Hamas must be part of any Israeli draw-down or ceasefire. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had explicitly called for Hamas to be disarmed as long ago as last month. On Tuesday State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki was explicit that the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip is “cer­tainly something we support.” Hamas is esti­mated to still possess roughly 3,000 rockets that would have to be seized by a mediating authority, after the other two-thirds of the group’s arsenal was either deployed or de­stroyed during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Psaki has in recent days been pressed by reporters questioning the degree to which the State Department remains com­mitted to fulfilling previous agreements committing both the Palestinian Authori­ty and Washington to keeping illegal weap­ons of the kind possessed by Hamas out of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority is obligated by the Wye Accords to “establish and vigor­ously and continuously implement a sys­tematic program for the collection and ap­propriate handling” of any weapons in the Gaza Strip except those permitted by the earlier 1995 Oslo II agreements, which quite pointedly exclude Hamas’s arsenal. Hamas leaders continue to dismiss any suggestion that the group would consent to give up its rocket arsenal.

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