The Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, on Sunday challenged talks that are currently underway between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.

In a statement delivered to the Palestinian-run Ramattan News Agency, Abu Zuhri said "These meetings come on the heels of Israeli military escalation on the ground, with an increase killings in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in addition to the ongoing siege on Gaza".

He added, "Hamas views these meetings as a cover for the continued Israeli military attacks against the Gaza Strip and West Bank".

In addition, Abu Zuhri challenged the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, as the government in the West Bank is an unelected one, appointed after Israel and the US refused to recognize the Hamas government that was elected by the Palestinian people in 2006.

According to Abu Zuhri, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah 'is unauthorized' to negotiate with Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people and that the Palestinian people's rights are inalienable.

The Hamas spokesman urged President Abbas to exert efforts to force Israeli to lift the Israeli blockade of the coastal territory, and to refrain from shaking hands with Israeli leaders, who he termed ' killers of the Palestinian people'.

On Sunday evening, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, met in Jerusalem within a series of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The Hamas statement came after the Israeli army had killed at least eight Palestinians including five teens over the weekend.

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