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Hamas Leader Remains Defiant Over Demands to Moderate


Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told supporters in Gaza that Hamas will not be forced out of power or give in to demands to moderate its positions. The prime minister's comments come amid increasing tension between Hamas and the rival Fatah faction.

Tens of thousands of supporters gathered in Gaza's main sports stadium to hear an impassioned speech by Ismail Haniyeh, defending his government and vowing it would continue despite internal and outside pressure.

The Hamas-led government has been beset by crippling economic sanctions ever since it formally took power last March, after winning a sweeping election victory over the long-dominant Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel and the United States refused to deal with Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organization. Funds quickly dried up, as Israel refused to transfer tax and customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, and the United States cut off direct aid, leaving only indirect humanitarian assistance. European countries followed suit.

They want Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept previously signed peace agreements.

Addressing supporters, Haniyeh remained defiant.

Haniyeh said Hamas would resist such attempts by the international community to impose its will on the Palestinians.

Yet, he also called for an end to the violent rivalry between Hamas and Fatah, and he urged President Abbas to return to the negotiating table to discuss forming a unity government.

But, the prime minister ruled out any suggestion that Hamas would step down in favor of a temporary government made up of technocrats. That was among ideas recently floated to try to win back international support, and end the Palestinians economic crisis. Haniyeh also rejected the idea of early elections.

President Abbas has hinted he might dissolve the current government, or call an early election, after he announced earlier this week that talks for a unity government had broken down.

At one point during Friday's Gaza rally, Haniyeh appeared to faint. He was helped to a chair by assistants, and shortly afterward resumed his speech. It was an unusually warm October day in Gaza, and, Haniyeh, like most Muslims, has been fasting from dawn to dusk, as is customary during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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