Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a prominent leader of Hamas in the
Gaza Strip said the Israeli withdrawal from the strip will be a
‘victory for the fighters,’ media sources reported on Thursday.

In an interview with the British ‘Times’ magazine, Zahar said, ‘The
operatives who fought the occupation in the past four years are the
ones who forced Israel to withdraw,’ and added ‘Israel will withdraw
from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, only because of the
Intifada and the armed resistance and the sacrifice that Hamas made,
not because of the negotiations or ‘good will’ by Israel or the
Americans and the Europeans.’

Starting in July, Israel plans to evacuate all 21 Jewish settlements in
the Gaza Strip and four minor settlements in the West Bank of the 120
settlements, under what is known as the disengagement plan that is
facing a serious opposition in the Israeli society, especially in the
Likud party and the extreme right-wing parties.


The ‘Times’ said that Zahar refrained to declare that Hamas would
commit to peace until they see the Israeli withdrawal happening. 
He said, ‘We are looking forward to seeing the real withdrawal, if they
[Israel] will be positioned on the entrances between Gaza and Egypt and
control our water borders and attack our homes, it will not satisfy
those who sacrificed their lives.’

Al-Zahar reiterated Hamas’ intention to participate in the upcoming
legislative elections and that it will take part in forming the coming
government.  This would be the first time for Hamas to join the
Palestinian elections after they boycott the 1996 elections and the
latest presidential elections.

Hamas also joined the Palestinian factions in their talks in Cairo in
which they declared calm until the end of 2005.  The factions
expect Israel to reciprocate the calm so that it will become a truce.