|Photo by: Mohammed Salem/Reuters|
Malaysian PM visits Gaza, drawing fire from Abbas
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Premier Najib Razak crossed into Gaza for humanitarian visit; PA accuses Malaysian government of "conspiracy to divide homeland."
Malaysia’s prime minister visited Gaza on Tuesday, part of a diplomatic push by
Hamas that is irritating Fatah, even more – apparently – than
Premier Najib Razak, along with a group of Malaysian ministers,
crossed into Gaza via its land border with Egypt, the Rafah border crossing, for
what he described as a humanitarian visit.
“We believe in the struggle of
the Palestinian people. They have been suppressed and oppressed for so long,”
Razak told reporters as he was greeted by officials from Gaza’s Hamas
Razak arrived at the head of a highlevel delegation for a
one-day visit during which he held talks with Hamas leaders. Hamas Prime
Minister Ismail Haniyeh received him upon arrival.
He was the second
world leader in recent months to accept an invitation from Hamas and visit Gaza.
Qatar’s emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al- Thani, made a brief visit to Gaza in
October and promised $400 million in aid for infrastructure. He too entered via
Egypt, whose new Muslim Brotherhood leaders have historic ties with
In a recent report by the US NGO Freedom House, Qatar was
classified as a “Not Free” country, while Malaysia was called “Partly Free.” The
high-level visits under the nose of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his
Fatah movement in the West Bank underscore bitter divisions between the rival
Palestinian movements despite efforts by Egypt to forge
Najib’s visit drew a stern rebuke from Abbas, who has not
set foot in Gaza since Hamas overthrew his forces there in 2007.
Palestinian presidency rejects and denounces the visit... and believes it
undermines the representation of the Palestinian people,” his office said in a
statement. “It enhances division and does not serve Palestinian
It also said that the visit harmed the status of the PA as
the legitimate leadership of the Palestinians.
The PA accused the
Malaysian government of misleading Abbas concerning the visit.
that Razak had phoned Abbas and informed him of his country’s decision to send
humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Razak also asked to
meet with a PA delegation in Cairo, the PA said, adding that it was caught by
surprise by the visit to the Gaza Strip.
The PA leadership accused
Malaysia of being part of a “conspiracy to divide the Palestinian homeland” and
demanded clarifications from the Malaysian government.
government official called the Malaysian move an “aberration,” since the
overwhelming majority of the international community, including most of the
“significant countries” continue to refuse to engage with Hamas until it accepts
three conditions: forswears terrorism, recognizes Israel and accepts previous
Israeli- Palestinian agreements.
The official said Malaysia was only
representing itself, and dismissed the notion that this visit would open the
door for other countries to do the same.
Both Qatar and Malaysia have
always maintained a dialogue with Hamas, so the move did not come as a surprise,
the official said. Neither country maintains diplomatic ties with
Najib visited a Gaza university and government offices, as well
as the family of Ahmed Jabari, who was killed in November at the start of
Operation Pillar of Defense.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki plans to
visit Gaza next month.
Reuters contributed to this report.