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Hamas Ready to Merge Armed Factions to Form an Army

28 January 2006

The political leader of Hamas says the Palestinian militant group is ready to merge all armed factions to form an army that will defend the Palestinian people.

Speaking Saturday from his base in Damascus, Syria, Khaled Mashaal rejected U.S., European and Israeli demands for Hamas to disarm. But he said the group will honor existing agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, provided they serve the Palestinians' interests.

Hamas has claimed many suicide attacks against Israel and has vowed to destroy the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, armed activists of the Palestinian Fatah party have held protests in the West Bank and Gaza, following Hamas' stunning election victory this week over Fatah.

Fatah gunmen fired shots in the air today from the roof of the Palestinian parliament building in the West Bank town of Ramallah, demanding the resignation of Fatah leaders.

There were no reports of casualties.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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