Hamas official says group would lay down its arms if an independent Palestinian state is established

Al-Hayya, a high-ranking Hamas official who has represented the Palestinian militants in negotiations for a cease-fire and hostage exchange, struck a sometimes defiant and other times conciliatory tone.

Speaking in Istanbul, Al-Hayya said Hamas wants to join the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by the rival Fatah faction, to form a unified government for Gaza and the West Bank. He said Hamas would accept “a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with the international resolutions,” along Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

If that happens, he said, the group’s military wing would dissolve.

“All the experiences of people who fought against occupiers, when they became independent and obtained their rights and their state, what have these forces done? They have turned into political parties and their defending fighting forces have turned into the national army,” he said.

Over the years, Hamas has sometimes moderated its public position with respect to the possibility of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But its political program still officially “rejects any alternative to the full liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea” — referring to the area reaching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which includes lands that now makeup Israel.

Al-Hayya did not say whether his apparent embrace of a two-state solution would amount to an end to the Palestinian conflict with Israel or an interim step toward the group’s stated goal of destroying Israel.

Ophir Falk, a foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declined to comment on Al-Hayya’s comments, dismissing him as a “high-ranking terrorist.” But he said Hamas had broken a previous truce with its Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Militants dragged some 250 hostages into the enclave.

There was no immediate reaction from the PLO or the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognized self-ruled government that Hamas drove out when it seized Gaza in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian parliamentary elections. After the Hamas takeover of Gaza, the Palestinian Authority was left with administering semi-autonomous pockets of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority hopes to establish an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and Gaza — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. While the international community overwhelmingly supports such a two-state solution, Netanyahu’s hard-line government rejects it.

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