February 20, 2013 - 1:00am

Islamic Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip cannot accept any agreement that bans arms smuggling to the coastal enclave, a Hamas official said Wednesday.

"Preventing people under occupation from getting the mechanism of fighting the occupier is meaningless," said Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas official.

His remarks came after Israeli media reported a possible agreement between Israel and Hamas to lift the blockade on Gaza in exchange for a Hamas commitment to stop arms smuggling. The reports said that Egypt was mediating between the two sides to achieve the deal which would complement an earlier agreement that ended days of cross-border clashes between Hamas and Israel in last November.

On Tuesday, Israeli army radio reported that the aim of the agreement was to prevent any new round of fighting between Hamas and Israel in the future.

Hamas routed forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and ousted his Fatah party in street fighting in 2007. Since then, Israel imposed a tight closure on Gaza, but started a gradual easing of the siege since 2010.

The latest Israeli facilities were announced Tuesday, involving an increase in fuel and cooking gas supplies to Gaza.

Al-Bardaweel stressed that Egypt talked separately to his movement and Israel, denying the reports that Hamas, which does not recognize Israel, was holding indirect negotiations with the Jewish state.


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