GAZA STRIP, Gaza City (AP) — A spokesman for Gaza's Hamas rulers said Sunday that the Islamic militant group will oppose any international force in a future Palestine — adding a new complication to U.S.-brokered peace efforts.
Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to arrange security arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians under a final peace deal. Israel has demanded it retain a security presence in parts of the West Bank after a deal, citing security concerns. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas opposes this, but has said he would accept international peacekeepers.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamas will deal with any international force "in the same manner it uses with Israeli occupation forces." Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in years of conflict in suicide bombings and other attacks.
While Hamas is not part of the talks, Sunday's comments underscore its ability to hinder peace efforts. The Palestinians want their state to include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 war.
Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Hamas later took over the territory from forces loyal to Abbas in 2007. Since then, Palestinians have been split between Hamas controlling Gaza and Abbas and his secular Fatah party ruling parts of the West Bank.
Also Sunday, a Palestinian government official in the West Bank said the Palestinian Authority has begun removing details of religious affiliation from ID cards, in an apparent move against discrimination.
Hasan Alawi, the Palestinian deputy interior affairs minister, said that Abbas issued a decision two weeks ago to remove the religion status from the cards. He said the move is in the spirit of Palestinian law. "All citizens are equal regardless if they are Muslims, Christians, black or white," he said.
The step was welcomed by the Palestinians' Christian minority. "It could help in job promotions, unfortunately there is still some (bigotry) in some areas in the West Bank," said Rand Abdo, 30, from Ramallah. "When I tell them I am Christian, some people get surprised and say, 'You don't look like a Christian,' but should a Christian look any different?" she said.
The move was condemned by the Hamas government in Gaza.
AP writer Dalia Nammari reported from Ramallah, West Bank