SENIOR HAMAS LEADER Mahmoud Zahar (second right), appearing in public for the first time since the 50-day began, attends a rally in Gaza City celebrating the cease-fire that began yesterday evening..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas has not authorized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Israel about the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said on Wednesday.
Zahar told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Akhbar newspaper that Abbas helped Hamas conduct indirect negotiations with Israel during the recent cease-fire talks in Cairo. But, he added, “We did not authorize him to negotiate with Israel over any political process or the 1967 borders or anything else. Abbas was negotiating to lift the siege and other humanitarian issues such as bringing goods into the Gaza Strip. Abbas does not speak on our behalf and we never accepted his [political] plan.”
The newspaper said the interview with the Hamas leader was conducted on the rubble of his house, which was destroyed by Israel during Operation Protective Edge.
Asked about recent remarks by senior Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk that there was “nothing wrong” with negotiating with Israel, Zahar replied: “He meant that if Abbas does not fulfill his role in negotiating with Israel about the humanitarian issues, we will search for another mediator to talk to Israel directly. This could be an Arab, international or UN mediator that would negotiate with Israel about humanitarian, and not political, issues. As for us, we don’t sit with Israel.”
Zahar lashed out at Abbas’s Fatah faction, saying it has lost its “electoral and popular legitimacy.” He denied Abbas’s charges that Hamas has established its own “shadow government” in the Gaza Strip.
“Mahmoud Abbas is not a legitimate president; he is a de facto president,” said Zahar. “We dealt with him as a president who was elected one year before us [in 2005].
But he sought to stage a coup against us. In 2006, we gave him half of the government at Mecca. He has lost his legitimacy and does not represent us politically. It’s enough that he is the mastermind of a failed program over the past 22 years.”
Zahar said Hamas was prepared and is not afraid to contest new elections.
“Abbas does not call elections because he fears the results,” he added.
Zahar reiterated Hamas’s refusal to abandon its weapons, saying all Palestinians shared his position.
Meanwhile, Hamas and Fatah on Wednesday traded charges over who is responsible for the recent phenomenon of Palestinians fleeing the Gaza Strip.
Dozens of would-be Palestinian immigrants have been killed or have gone missing after the boats carrying them capsized off the shores of Egypt and Libya.
Fatah officials in the West Bank claimed that senior Hamas officials were involved in the illegal immigration of Palestinians. The officials said Hamas collects $3,500 from every Palestinian who seeks to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.
Those who wish to leave the Gaza Strip through a tunnel are required to pay $2,000 each, they said.
The Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency reported that Egyptian human traffickers in Sinai were also involved in the scheme. The agency said Palestinians seeking to immigrate to Europe were leaving because of pressure from Hamas against anyone who does not belong to the Islamist movement. It said others were fleeing for economic reasons.
“The Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing is a mafia run by Hamas,” Wafa said. It also accused Hamas of distributing aid to the Gaza Strip only among its followers.
In response, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called on Fatah to stop its “systematic campaign of incitement” against Hamas. Abu Zuhri strongly denied Hamas involvement in the exodus from the Gaza Strip, dubbing the Fatah charges “lies designed to tarnish the Palestinian resistance.”
Sources in the Gaza Strip said Hamas security forces have arrested a number of tunnel owners involved in the smuggling of Palestinians.
The sources said Hamas has also taken security measures to stop Palestinians from fleeing the Gaza Strip. According to the sources, Hamas has also arrested a number of Palestinians who returned to the Gaza Strip after failing to reach their destination.