While Israeli officials welcomed the Arab League's decision to endorse the US-hosted peace conference taking place next week, Hamas slammed the announcement as a 'betrayal of the Palestinian people.'
In its condemnation, Hamas said the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would undoubtedly favor Israeli interests and ignore Palestinian demands.
Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel and broke off from the Palestinian Authority in June after seizing control of the Gaza Strip in a bloody civil war is excluded from the Nov. 27 conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri called the announcement "a great shock for Palestinians because it opened the door for direct normalization with the occupation (Israel) amid (its) continued escalation and aggression".
"The Palestinian people had awaited an Arab consensus for breaking the siege," Abu Zuhri said in a statement, "this meeting will only achieve more failure and more harm to the Palestinian cause and to Arab and Palestinian rights."
Saudi Arabia, long a Hamas patron, has said it will come to Annapolis despite having no formal ties with Israel. Syria, which hosts Hamas' exiled leadership, has said it wants further clarification on the conference's agenda before it decides whether to attend.
Senior Hamas official Ahmed Yusuf added that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hasn't the mandate necessary to make any concessions to Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. Yusuf, a close advisor of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said that Hamas is capable of launching far more deadly rocket attacks against Israel.
"We can develop these weapons in a very short time, so as to sow terror and fear which will make the
Israelis live in the kind of pain our people lives in," said Yusuf, dismissing the current incessant bombardment of Israel's south with Qassam rockets as these, he said, do not have lethal warheads.
Meanwhile Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives have said they will convene in Gaza on Monday and Tuesday to protest the Annapolis conference.