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Hamas Chief: 'No Prospect' of Israeli-Arab Peace Deals


The leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, says he sees no prospect of Israeli-Arab peace agreements under Israel's current leadership.

Speaking on visit to Moscow Monday, Mashaal denounced Israel's government as one of "war and occupation." Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist. It engaged in a brief war with Israel at the turn of last year in which about 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Mashaal praised Russia's government for inviting him on his third visit to Moscow and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The United States and Israel label Hamas as a terrorist organization, but Russia says Hamas must not be isolated.

Mashaal says he and Lavrov discussed efforts to reconcile Hamas with the Fatah part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government is based in the West Bank.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah forces in 2007, creating a political divide between Gaza and the West Bank that complicates global efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Senior aides to Mr. Abbas said Monday he is considering indirect peace talks with Israel that would be mediated by the United States and focus on border issues.

The Palestinian officials say the U.S.-proposed talks would involve U.S. envoy George Mitchell shuttling between the two sides for about three months. But they say Mr. Abbas intends to ask Washington for clarifications and will consult with Arab leaders before agreeing to the talks.

Israeli and Palestinian officials have suggested the discussions could start later this month, more than one year since the two sides suspended peace talks.

Meanwhile, Israeli security forces raided a Palestinian refugee camp in east Jerusalem Monday and arrested at least 11 people on suspicion of tax evasion and other crimes.

Palestinian youths threw stones at Israeli police during the raid at Shuafat refugee camp. Israeli authorities say five Israeli security personnel were injured during a confrontation with the stone-throwers.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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