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TEL AVIV – The U.S. last week held a clandestine meeting in Egypt with Ghazi Hamad, the deputy foreign minister of Hamas, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.

The officials would not say whether the meeting was with a current member of the U.S. government or a former diplomat acting as a proxy for the Obama administration.

Messages were exchanged about Hamas’s intentions as part of a newly formed Palestinian unity government with the rival Fatah party, led by Mahmoud Abbas, the officials said.

Last week, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper quoted an unnamed White House official stating the Obama administration is leaning toward cooperating with the Hamas-Fatah Palestinian unity government, even if Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and despite objections from the Israeli government.

Previously the Middle East Quartet, made up of the U.S., Russia, European Union and United Nations, declared it would not deal with Hamas unless the terrorist group renounces violence and recognizes Israel.

The Haaretz article did not mention any U.S.-Hamas meeting.

Hamas has several times claimed it talked with U.S. surrogates about eventually establishing open relations.

Sources within Hamas previously disclosed to WND a June 2009 meeting with former U.S. diplomat Thomas Pickering. The sources claimed the meeting was about opening future talks with the West.

The State Department has not replied to a WND request for comment.

The gathering allegedly took place in Geneva with two Hamas leaders, Bassem Naim and Mahmoud al-Zahar. Naim is Hamas’ health minister, while al-Zahar is one of the main Hamas leaders in Gaza.

Pickering’s meeting with Hamas in 2009 served as an “important step” to open eventual dialogue between the Islamic group and the Obama administration, Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza, Ahmed Yousef, told WND that year.

At the time, the State Department told the Jerusalem Post the meeting between Pickering and Hamas was not sanctioned by the White House.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly stressed Pickering acted as a private citizen. Kelly said he was unaware of any prior U.S. governmental coordination with the former diplomat about the meeting with Hamas.

Pickering was the State Department’s lead investigator on the Benghazi attack.

Also, in February 2009 there were reports then-Sen. John Kerry, now secretary of state, accepted a letter for President Obama from Hamas leaders in Gaza. Kerry had visited Gaza to tour U.N. camps there.

U.N. relief agency chief Karen Abu Zayd told the BBC the letter had been received by his agency and passed on to an unnamed American official.

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