DAMASCUS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Hamas will not recognise Israel despite new pressures on the group and will give priority to building resistance to the Jewish state, the Islamist group's leader Khaled Meshaal said on Friday.
Addressing a rally in the Syrian capital to mark the end of the Israeli attack on Gaza a year ago that killed 1,400 Palestinians, Meshaal said Hamas does not want another war with Israel but it will stick to armed struggle as a means to liberate occupied land.
Hamas will keep rejecting the occupation and refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. Priority will remain building and developing the resistance, said Meshaal, who lives in Syria along with other Hamas leaders in exile.
Pressure, siege, temptations and opening doors or communication channels will not fool Hamas, which will not compromise on the rights. Hamas will be only tempted by restoring the land, Meshaal said.
Meshaal was referring to increased contacts between Hamas and Western delegations since the Gaza war, including a meeting with a US group that included Jack Matlock, a former American ambassador in Moscow.
Israel said it attacked Gaza to end rocket launches by Hamas fighters into Israel. The invasion killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Thirteen Israelis were killed.
Triumphant Gaza today is still wounded. Its houses are still destroyed. It's still under siege and its borders are still closed. Add to this the new steel wall, Meshaal said, referring to a structure being built by Egypt along its border with Gaza to stop the smuggling of arms and goods into the strip.
Today we do not seek war but if war is imposed on us we will fight fiercely, Meshaal said.
Hamas, which is backed by Syria and Iran, last week urged Palestinian groups in Gaza allied to it to observe what amounted to a ceasefire that ended the Israeli attack on the strip a year ago after its allies fired rockets into Israel and Israeli air strikes killed several Palestinians.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on Gaza, which has been ruled by Hamas since it won in 2007 a brief civil war against supporters of Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas's more secular Fatah faction.
Hamas also opposes Abbas's approach to peace with Israel, although Abbas broke off peace talks with Israel during the Israeli invasion of Gaza and a US drive to resume the talks since has failed.
Meshaal said reconciliation with Abbas was needed to strengthen the Palestinian cause but he made no new proposals on how to do so after Egyptian efforts to bring about agreement between the two sides foundered.
Islamists founded Hamas in the 1980s. The group refuses to recognise Israel in defiance of international demands.
Hamas has offered Israel a decades-long truce if Israel withdraws from the Palestinian territories it occupied in the 1967 Middle East War and recognised what Hamas considers as the Palestinian refugees right of return.