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Hamas Says it Will Form New Palestinian Government


Leaders of the Islamic militant group Hamas say they plan to form a new Palestinian government by the end of February. The news comes as Israeli air strikes killed three Palestinian militants on Sunday and a Palestinian stabbed four Israelis, killing one.

Hamas leaders say they will form the next Palestinian government after a new Parliament convenes on February 16. The announcement came following talks between senior Hamas leaders and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas won 74 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council in Palestinian elections on January 25, soundly defeating Mr. Abbas' Fatah Party.

Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip says Hamas will work quickly to form the new government.

Haniyeh says Hamas will seek to avoid any constitutional vacuum and move quickly to assert its authority over a new government. He says Hamas will also take control of Palestinian security forces. Haniyeh says Hamas has asked Mr. Abbas' Fatah Party to join the new government but had received no response. The Hamas leader also says Hamas will not negotiate with Israel under any conditions.

Since their election win, Hamas leaders have repeated their position that they will not recognize Israel or disarm but would consider a long-term truce with Israel.

Israeli officials say Hamas must recognize Israel's right to exist and give up terrorism. International donors to the Palestinian Authority such as the United States and the European Union have classified Hamas as a terrorist organization and have said they will not be able to work with any Hamas government.

Mr. Abbas, who was elected separately last year as president says even though parliament will convene on February 16, it will take time to form a new government.

The Palestinian president says new committees to run various aspects of the Palestinian Authority will have to be formed and the whole job will be a major undertaking.

Meanwhile, Israel carried out air and artillery strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. In one attack Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a car leaving a building in the northern Gaza Strip, killing three men linked to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant offshoot of President Abbas' Fatah Party. Israeli officials say the attack was in response to a missile attack on southern Israel by the group which destroyed a house and wounded two adults and an infant. Israeli artillery and warplanes also targeted sites near the northern Gaza town of Beit Haanoun that Israeli officials say were being used as sites to launch missiles into southern Israel.

In another incident, a Palestinian man went on a stabbing rampage on board a mini-bus near Tel Aviv on Sunday, killing one woman and wounding at least five others. Police say the man entered Israel from the West Bank and that the attack was politically motivated.

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