Senior Hamas official says group will disarm if sovereign Palestinian state is established

Khalil al-Hayya asserts Israel’s promised offensive in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3m has sought refuge, would not destroy Hamas

Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya has said his movement will agree to a five-year truce with Israel, disarm its military wing and operate solely as a political party if a sovereign Palestinian state is established along pre-1967 borders.

Palestinian refugees would return to this state “in accordance with international decisions” and Hamas’s forces would “become the national army”, said Mr Hayya, Hamas’s deputy head in Gaza who was elected in 2006 to the defunct Palestinian legislative council.

He said Hamas would follow the example of others “who fought against occupiers [before] they became independent, got their rights and country”, he said.

Israel has resisted international pressure to implement the two-state solution for the Arab-Israel conflict.


Mr Hayya’s declaration amounted to a reassertion of Hamas’s 2017 decision to replace its founding goal of replacing Israel with an Islamic state and accept a state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas also pledged to respect agreements reached by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel. The major change has not been widely accepted.

Until a Palestinian state is established, Mr Hayya reiterated Hamas’s long-standing demands to join the PLO, dominated by rival Fatah, and participate in a unity government for Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel’s promised offensive in Rafah – where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has sought refuge – would not destroy Hamas, he said. Communications are “uninterrupted” between political leaders outside and military commanders inside Gaza and “contacts, decisions and directions are made in consultation”.

Mr Hayya said that during the nearly seven-month Gaza war, Israel had not eliminated “more than 20 per cent of Hamas’s capabilities, neither human nor in the field”.

He added: “If they cannot finish off [Hamas], what is the solution? The solution is to go to consensus [an agreed settlement].”

On current talks on Gaza, mediated by Qatar and Egypt, Mr Hayya reiterated Hamas’s call for a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza before Israel’s hostages are released. He warned that Hamas would attack non-Palestinian forces arriving in Gaza, including US troops who are building a floating pier offshore for humanitarian aid delivery.

Israeli attempts to eradicate Hamas would fail and Palestinians would mount further uprisings if there were no resolution of the conflict, he said.

In an earlier interview, Mr Hayya was unapologetic about the October 7th attack on Israel, which was intended to “change the entire equation and not just have a clash. We succeeded in putting the Palestinian issue back on the table, and now no one in the region is experiencing calm.”

Another top Hamas figure told the London-based New Arab magazine website that Gaza’s Hamas commander, Yahya Sinwar is not, as Israel has claimed, isolated in tunnels constructed beneath the strip. He has recently come out on several occasions, the source said, and “is not isolated from the reality there”. He is seen as the engineer of the October 7th attack in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 abducted, according to Israeli tallies.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority have commented on interviews Mr Hayya gave to the Associated Press, London-based New Arab Magazine, and Dubai’s Asharq News.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times