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Netanyahu lauds Sudan deal, while Palestinians lament

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday lauded the US-brokered normalisation of relations with Sudan while Palestinian Islamists Hamas lamented what they called a “political sin”.

After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations, which went into high gear Wednesday with the secret visit of an Israeli delegation to Khartoum, President Donald Trump announced the accord Friday in the White House.

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“What an amazing turnabout!” Netanyahu said in a Hebrew-language statement. 

“Today Khartoum says yes to peace with Israel, yes to recognition of Israel and normalisation with Israel.” 

“Delegations from Sudan and Israel will meet soon to discuss cooperation in many fields, among them agriculture, trade and other important areas,” he added.

Hamas, however, lambasted the deal branding it a “political sin”.

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The accord, “harms our Palestinian people and their just cause, and even harms the Sudanese national interests,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.

“It benefits only Netanyahu,” he added.

An official Hamas statement called on the Sudanese people to reject what it called a “shameful deal”.

The presidency of Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, joined the condemnation.

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“The Presidency of the State of Palestine expressed today its condemnation and rejection of the deal to normalise ties with the Israeli occupation country which usurps Palestinian land,” a statement said.

It added that “no one has the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause”.

Sudan is the third Arab country since August to announce normalisation of its relations with Israel, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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– ‘Three no’s -Netanyahu, who met the head of Sudan’s ruling council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Uganda this year, thanked Sudanese leaders and US President Donald Trump in his statement. 

The February Netanyahu-Burhan encounter met with surprise and some hostility in Sudan at the time and the country’s cabinet later denied that Burhan had made promises of normalisation.

Former Sudanese strongman Omar al-Bashir was close to Islamists, including Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

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Bashir was ousted last year and replaced by a transition government, which faces serious economic difficulties with a sharp depreciation of the Sudanese pound.  

Those challenges led Khartoum to press Washington to remove it from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, which Sudan hopes would boost inward investment.

Earlier this week the US announced that it would strike Sudan from the blacklist in return for payment of $335 million in compensation for American victims of terror.

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Before announcing the normalisation deal, Trump formally moved to end Sudan’s designation of a state sponsor of terrorism, which was a major goal for Khartoum.

The Israel-Sudan agreement has special resonance in the Middle East. 

After the Six-Day War, which in 1967 saw Israel capture the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, the Arab League met in Sudan. 

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There they adopted the Khartoum resolution, known for its “three no’s” — no peace, no recognition and no negotiations with Israel.

Under Bashir, Sudan was a supporter of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, whose leaders occasionally visited Khartoum. 

Israel in those days accused Sudan of allowing passage though its territory of arms shipped in from Iran and smuggled into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

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