GAZA, April 6 (Xinhuanet) -- The Palestinian Islamic resistance movement Hamas was ready to embrace Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's call Tuesday to join a unified national leadership, but reiterated its commitment to armed resistance.
Sa'eed Seyam, a senior Hamas representative in Gaza, told reporters that "Hamas... will be part of the leadership after the Israeli pullout."
"In case of the Israeli army withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, our political participation in ruling the Strip would be direct without any agreement or any commitment with other factions," the representative said.
When showing a willingness to participate in administrating theGaza Strip, Hamas didn't forgo its long-standing commitment to liberating all Palestinian people through armed resistance.
Seyam reaffirmed Hamas' rejection to the Oslo peace accords signed between the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israelin 1993 and anything that comes out of them.
"The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is not achieved by Oslo, it is achieved by the Palestinian armed resistance against the occupation," he said.
"Everyone in Hamas, whether he is a leader or a member, wants peace. This is what we always said, but the kind of peace we want is established on justice and getting our legitimate rights."
Arafat, whose Fatah movement wields an influential clout in thePNA, welcomed the move, saying he wanted Hamas to be incorporated in the decision-making body.
Many believed this political shift of Hamas was stoked by the prospect of a possible Israeli pullout from Gaza, since when Arafat and the PNA were committed to promoting an independent Palestinian state coexisting with Israel, Hamas was always bent onliberating all Palestinian people and refused to participate in Palestinian political mechanism.
This move met strong resistance from the United States, which labels Hamas as "a terrorist organization" that deserved to be "ostracized."
"We consider Hamas a terrorist organization," US deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said. "Our view is that, far from being welcomed into any partnership of cooperation, Hamas should be ostracized and disempowered as an organization."
US, ISRAEL REACH TENTATIVE AGREEMENT ON PULLOUT PLAN
When Hamas was ready to assume a role in administering the GazaStrip after the Israeli withdrawal, the United States and Israel made a step forward by hammering out a tentative deal on the pullout plan.
According to diplomatic sources, agreement on key points of an Israeli plan of disengagement from Gaza was reached last week between Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and US officials.
The White House said it considered the withdrawal plan as a positive interim step to give impetus to the stalled roadmap peaceprocess.
However, it also said Washington remained committed to seeking a negotiated final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians,and still wanted Israel to adhere as closely as possible to the principles of the roadmap.
Designed to dent Hamas' control over Gaza, the plan drew outcryof opposition from the Palestinian side.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) warnedthat the Israeli pullout might foment internal conflicts among Palestinians.
"Following Israeli premier Ariel Sharon's plans would only create sedition among Palestinians that would lead to internal conflicts between the Palestinian National Authority and the factions about the administration of the Gaza Strip," said Maher Al-Taher, member of the PFLP's political bureau.
He called on Israel to evacuate the Gaza Strip and pull out to its pre-June 1967 borders, saying the Israeli evacuation should beunconditional and in accordance with international law and United Nations resolutions.
"What made Sharon think about evacuating the Gaza Strip was thesteadfastness of the Palestinian people and their determination toresume the intifada (uprising) for the fourth year running," Al-Taher said.
Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Al-Khatib joined the chorus of opposition, calling on the international community to beware ofthe Israeli unilateral evacuation plan, local radio "Voice of Palestine" reported.
"I hope that all the international sides concerned would deal with Israel according to its practices against Palestinians and not fall into the trap of the evacuation plan," he said.
He added that Sharon's decision to dismantle Jewish settlementsin the Gaza Strip was aimed at diverting international attention from the continuous Israeli aggressions against Palestinians.
ISRAEL STEPS UP SECURITY DURING PASSOVER
Israel beefed up security Tuesday with a lockdown imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in a bid to fend offattacks during the week-long Jewish holiday of the Passover, whichwitnessed a suicide bombing last year.
Israel Radio said the state of emergency would continue till the end of the holiday.
Heavy presence of police forces, soldiers and border guards wasseen in the main streets of Israeli cities and towns as well as inmarkets and commercial centers.
Meanwhile, in an effort to prevent potential attacks, the Israeli army shut down the northern Gaza Strip terminal of Erez and ordered hundreds of Palestinian workers to leave the area, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.
Outside Rafah, a flashpoint which has witnessed some bloody violence during the Palestinian intifada, Israeli forces uncoveredand destroyed an eight-meter deep tunnel, which was believed to beused for smuggling weapons from bordering Egypt.
This was the seventh tunnel of such kind found this year, according to army sources, and previous attempts to destroy tunnels often led to armed clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army. Enditem