Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Monday, for the first time, declared that it was willing to accept an interim Palestinian state within the borders in place in 1967, when Israel had seized Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a war with Arab states. With its a new policy document released by Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal (pictured above centre), the outfit is believed to be trying to soften its image, according to BBC.

The policy document is a shift from Hamas’ charter, which contains strong language, including the need to fight “warmongering Jews”. Hamas, however, has clarified that their new policy paper does not replace the charter, even though it is the first time it has indicated a willingness to reject any territorial compromise.

“We don’t want to dilute our principles but we want to be open. We hope this [document] will mark a change in the stance of European states towards us,” Meshaal said. “Hamas advocates the liberation of all of Palestine but is ready to support the state on 1967 borders without recognising Israel or ceding any rights,” Reuters reported.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said the document aimed to indicate that they were not a radical group. “We are a pragmatic and civilised movement. We do not hate the Jews. We only fight who occupies our lands and kills our people.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, is of the opinion that Hamas was “attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed”. “They build terror tunnels and have launched thousands upon thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians,” spokesperson David Keyes said. Hamas’ Palestinian political rival Fatah, which is President Mahmoud Abbas’ faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, also reacted to the news with indifference.

Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, European Union, United Kingdom and other powers. The move is being seen as an effort to improve relations with Gulf Arab states and Egypt.