A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally during an election campaign for the student council at the Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 26, 2016.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Egypt has invited senior Hamas officials to Cairo for talks on the continued tensions along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and ways of ending the dispute between the Islamist movement and the ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank.
On the eve of the visit, Hamas leaders said they were not prepared to “pay any political price” in return for economic and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip.
The visit comes amid increased tensions between Fatah and Hamas, with representatives of the rival parties holding each other responsible for thwarting efforts to achieve “national reconciliation.”
On Tuesday, Hamas said that some of its supporters were beaten by Fatah activists at An-Najah University in Nablus. Hamas also accused the PA security forces of continuing its campaign of arrests and harassment against its supporters and members in the West Bank.
The Hamas delegation to Cairo, which is headed by Saleh Arouri, consists of Musa Abu Marzouk, Khalil al-Haya, Husam Badran, Ezat al-Risheq, and Rouhi Mushtaha.
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said the discussions in Cairo are focusing on bilateral relations and the latest developments in the Palestinian and Arab arenas.
He reiterated Hamas’s keenness to end the dispute with Fatah, saying the best way to achieve this was by lifting the sanctions that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas imposed on the Gaza Strip about one year ago.
The sanctions include, among other things, halting payments to thousands of PA civil servants, forcing thousands others into early retirement and refusing to issue permits to patients from the Gaza Strip to receive medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank and Arab countries.
In October 2017, Hamas and Fatah signed yet another reconciliation agreement in Cairo under the auspices of the Egyptian authorities. However, the two sides have since failed to implement the accord. Fatah has accused Hamas of refusing to allow the Ramallah-based government to assume its full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip in accordance with the agreement. Hamas, for its part, has rejected Fatah’s demand that the PA government deploy its security forces in the coastal enclave. In addition, Hamas continues to insist that the PA government absorb thousands of Hamas employees.
Tensions between Hamas and Fatah reached their peak last March following the apparent assassination attempt of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence chief Majed Faraj during a visit to the northern Gaza Strip. The PA and Fatah have accused Hamas of being behind the bombing of the convoy of the senior PA officials. Hamas, which has denied the charges, claims that the assassination attempt was staged by Faraj’s General Intelligence Force.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar told the Al-Jazeera network this week that his movement would not pay any political price in return for economic and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. He was referring to recent Israeli, US and United Nations initiatives to improve the living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli proposal made by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman calls for establishing a seaport in Cyprus for shipping goods to the Gaza Strip.
“Any proposal that comes without a political price is acceptable,” Zahar said. “Hamas will not accept any deal that includes a political price. We will not give up one inch of Palestine in return for easing of restrictions.”
Zahar also repeated Hamas’s opposition to US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East, which is known as the “deal of the century.” Hamas, he added, has not been presented with any details of Trump’s upcoming plan. “The Hamas delegation visiting Cairo will focus on the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip,” Zahar said.
Barhoum, the Hamas spokesman, on Thursday accused the PA and Abbas of being “in collusion” with Israel and the US to implement the “deal of the century.” He claims that the PA was “inciting” the international community not to lift the sanctions on the Gaza Strip.
Sources close to Hamas told the London-based Ashraq Al-Awsat newspaper that the protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel will continue until the sanctions imposed on the coastal enclave are lifted. The sources said that the Hamas delegation visiting Cairo will relay this message to the Egyptians.