A prominent Arab editor on Monday blamed Hamas for the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip, saying the Islamist movement had acted "stupidly" by firing rockets at Israel.
Meanwhile, sources close to Hamas said some of the movement's leaders had instructed all Palestinian factions to stop firing rockets and mortars at Israel.
According to the sources, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was one of those behind the decision to halt the attacks.
However, other Hamas leaders, including Mahmoud Zahar, Said Siam and Ahmed Ja'bari, commander of Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, have rejected the decision, the sources added.
Abdel Rahman Rashed, a Saudi national serving as general manager of the pan-Arab Arabiya news channel, said Hamas was responsible for the suffering of some 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas committed a stupid act when it gave the Israelis an excuse to launch attacks in retaliation for a few antique rockets," Rashed wrote in the London-based daily Asharq Al- Awsat.
"Prior to that, Hamas committed a big crime against the Palestinian people by overthrowing the Palestinian Authority [in the Gaza Strip]. The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have suffered a lot because of Hamas's actions. Hamas is bringing Israel back into the Gaza Strip after it was liberated by the Palestinian groups."
Rashed questioned the wisdom of firing rockets and mortars at Israel which, he said, was only increasing the suffering of the Palestinians, let alone that they were not causing much harm to Israel. He pointed out that "only" 10 Israelis were wounded in the recent attacks as opposed to the "huge disaster" that has befallen the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Rashed is regarded by many Arab journalists as an unofficial spokesman for the Saudi royal family. He previously served as editor-in-chief of the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper and his writings regularly reflect the views of the Saudi establishment.
PA officials in Ramallah have joined the bandwagon by blaming Hamas for the looming humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. The charges came only hours after the PA openly held Israel responsible for the fuel shortage that has plunged large parts of the Gaza Strip into darkness since Sunday night.
PA Information Minister Riad al-Malki said the latest crisis was the result of Hamas's "insistence on creating an Islamic republic in the Gaza Strip." He also accused Hamas of seeking to evade responsibility for the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip by blaming the Ramallah-based government of PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.
Both Fayad and al-Malki left Ramallah Monday for a tour of a number of EU countries aimed at solving the crisis in the Gaza Strip. According to PA officials, the two are expected to visit Britain, Germany and Spain.
A top PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas was "holding more than 1.5 million Palestinians hostage" in an attempt to rally the Arab and Muslim masses against the PA and Israel.
"Of course, we strongly condemn the Israeli measures against the residents of the Gaza Strip, but Hamas is also responsible for what's happening there," he said. "Unfortunately, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are paying a heavy price for Hamas's irresponsible actions."
The official also accused Hamas of ordering owners of bakeries to keep their businesses closed for the second day running to create a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. "Hamas is preventing people from buying bread," he said. "They want to deepen the crisis so as to serve their own interests."
The official said that contrary to Hamas's claims, there is enough fuel and flour to keep the bakeries in the Gaza Strip operating for another two months. "Hamas members have stolen most of the fuel in the Gaza Strip to fill their vehicles," he said.