Hamas Refuses New Truce with Israel

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The leader of Hamas said Wednesday that his Palestinian militant group will not renew a truce with Israel when it expires at the end of the year and accused the Jewish state of violating the agreement that has greatly reduced violence.

Khaled Mashaal, whose group has carried out dozens of deadly suicide attacks on Israelis over the years, also restated Hamas' rejection of U.S. and Israeli demands to disarm.

"All circumstances on the ground, the regional political atmosphere and the Palestinian situation are not encouraging to renew the truce," Mashaal told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "Hamas is not going to renew the truce because Israel did not abide by the conditions of the truce."

Mashaal said Israel hasn't released Palestinian prisoners, ended attacks on Palestinian areas and assassinations of militant leaders or stopped confiscation of Palestinian lands.

The Egyptian government brokered the informal truce between Israel and militant Palestinian factions to run through the end of the year.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has invited all Palestinian groups to Cairo to talk about extending the cease-fire for another year. But Hamas last week asked Egypt to delay the talks until after Palestinian parliamentary elections Jan. 25.

Mashaal rejected U.S. calls for Hamas to disarm and join the political process, saying this was not possible while Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory continued.

"The resistance must go hand in hand with political work," he said. "It is not accepted to pressure the resistance to choose between resistance and politics."

Asked if Hamas would accept a peace accord creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, Mashaal said the group "will never abandon any Palestinian right and will not recognize the legitimacy of occupation whatsoever."

The United States and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization and have repeatedly demanded that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas disarm the Islamic group. He has repeatedly refused, saying such a confrontation would provoke civil war among Palestinians.

Instead, Abbas has brokered a shaky agreement with militants not to attack Israel and has worked to bring them into Palestinian political life by having them field candidates in the parliamentary elections.