The leader of Hamas suggested Saturday in the aftermath of its parliamentary election victory that the militant Islamic group could create a Palestinian army that would include its armed wing, which is responsible for scores of deadly attacks on Israelis.
Israeli officials condemned the plan, demanding that Hamas renounce violence. Palestinian security officers, including loyalists from the defeated Fatah Party, said they would never submit to Hamas control.
"The security institution is a red line. We will not allow anyone to tamper with it," Gaza police chief Brig. Gen. Alaa Hosni said. "It will remain a powerful and impartial arm that carries out the decisions of the presidency and that stops any infighting or civil war."
Speaking from his base in Damascus, Syria, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal reiterated that his group would not recognize the state of Israel and indicated that attacks on Israeli civilians would continue as long as Israel continued to target Palestinian civilians.
"As long as we are under occupation, then resistance is our right," he said.
Angry police stormed the parliament building in Gaza and armed militants marched into Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' compound in Ramallah in the West Bank to demonstrate their rejection of Hamas' authority.
Clashes have broken out between the two sides. Hamas gunmen wounded two policemen in Gaza early Saturday. The attack came hours after another firefight in which a Hamas activist and two police officers were wounded.
Meshaal insisted that Hamas' military wing, estimated at nearly 5,000 gunmen in Gaza alone, could be merged into a Palestinian army.
"We are ready to unify the weapons of Palestinian factions, with Palestinian consensus, and form an army like any independent state," he said.
Israeli officials demanded that Hamas look for peaceful solutions.
"If Hamas wants to be considered a partner in peace, it's very clear what it has to do. It has to renounce terrorism, disarm, accept Israel's right to exist and support political solutions to issues, rather than pursuing violent jihad," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.
Meshaal said Hamas would abide by existing agreements "as long as it is in the interest of our people." Israel and the Palestinians have a host of agreements on issues ranging from administration to peace frameworks. Meshaal did not specify any agreements.
Israeli officials have said repeatedly that they would not have dealings with Hamas, and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel would not rule out targeted killings against Hamas leaders if Israel was attacked.