The war of words between Hamas and its rivals in Fatah has intensified as Egyptian efforts to end the dispute between the two parties and achieve a truce between the Gaza-based factions and Israel appear to have hit a snag.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted on Tuesday as having voiced strong opposition to the idea of establishing a seaport in Cyprus and an airport near Eilat as part of a truce agreement between Hamas and Israel. Abbas reportedly said that such a plan was “destructive to the Palestinian cause and would kill the Palestinian dream of establishing a Palestinian state.”
Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Fatah official, told Palestine TV that Abbas has made it clear that such a plan would pass only “over [his] dead body.”
Palestinian reconciliation was the key to resolving all the problems of the Gaza Strip, Sheikh said.
Hamas, he charged, was negotiating a truce agreement that would be comfortable only for itself and Israel.
Hamas is “seeking to consolidate the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and tighten its grip over the Gaza Strip,” Sheikh said. The truce, he added, is a life-save for Hamas, which would no longer feel a need to achieve reconciliation with Fatah.
The top Fatah official claimed that Hamas has accepted a proposal for a seaport in Cyprus and an airport near Eilat in return for Israeli and American economic and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
Hamas officials have denied reports to the effect that Israel had offered their movement a seaport in Cyprus and an airport near Eilat.
Sheikh, who was part of a Fatah delegation that held talks in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence officials in the past 48 hours, said that the PA and Fatah leaderships were in favor of a comprehensive truce with Israel, “but the reconciliation is now more important because it will lead us towards a period of calm. We will not be part of a truce, and we will resist it and fight against it because it means the destruction of the Palestinian dream of establishing a state.”
The PLO, he said, was the only part authorized to take a decision on a truce with Israel.
“No one authorized Hamas to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people,” Sheikh added.
“We say to Hamas: either reconciliation or we will search for other means. We are facing a real chance to achieve reconciliation and Hamas must seize the opportunity.”
For their part, Hamas leaders and spokesmen accused Abbas of hindering the Egyptian efforts by refusing to lift the economic sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip last year.
The Egyptian-sponsored talks to end the Fatah-Hamas dispute and reach a truce with Israel were supposed to resume in Cairo this week. However, the talks have been postponed until further notice in wake of Abbas’s and Fatah’s strong reservations.
Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official based in Lebanon, said on Monday that Abbas wants Hamas to hand over its weapons to his Ramallah- based government and “end the resistance” against Israel to move forward with the issue of reconciliation between the two factions.
“This will not happen,” Hamdan told the Hamas-affiliated Al-Quds television station.
Hamdan said the truce talks in Cairo were unrelated to the position of Fatah or the PA “because of their involvement in the siege on the Gaza Strip.”
He pointed out Fatah had decided to exclude itself from the truce talks with Israel.
Hamas, he added, was not conducting the truce talks alone, but together with several Palestinian factions based in the Gaza Strip.
According to the Hamas official, in addition to Egypt, the UN, Qatar and Turkey were also involved in the indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian factions to reach a long-term truce agreement.
“The Palestinian Authority’s sanctions are part of the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, and they need to end in order to pave the way for achieving national reconciliation,” Hamdan added.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem accused the PA leadership and Fatah of incitement against the efforts to achieve a truce agreement with Israel.
He claimed that this campaign of incitement “encourages the US administration to present plans aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause.”
Another Hamas spokesman, Abdel Latif Qanou, said that his movement’s efforts to reach a truce deal with Israel and lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip were backed by all Palestinian factions in the coastal enclave.
He said that the PA’s and Fatah’s criticism of the indirect truce negotiations with Israel were “meaningless.”
Qanou called on Fatah and Abbas to revoke their recognition of Israel, halt security coordination between the PA and the IDF in the West Bank and lift the economic sanctions they imposed on the Gaza Strip.
The truce talks, he said, were not aimed at reaching any political deal with Israel.
“Nor are the talks part of an international agreement where the Palestinians would be required to give up their lands or recognize the occupier, as Fatah had already done,” Qanou added.
Hamas will not give up its weapons or abandon the “resistance” against Israel under any truce agreement, he said.
Meanwhile, the PA on Tuesday repeated its appeal to Hamas to hand over full responsibilities of the Gaza Strip to the PA government.
A statement issued by the PA government also called on Hamas to stop working toward “solidifying its narrow factional interests at the cost of the national interests of the Palestinian people.”
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