Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a news conference following the extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey.
(photo credit: REUTERS/OSMAN ORSAL)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is close to announcing a series of additional punitive measures against the Gaza Strip, as Egyptian efforts to end the power struggle between his Fatah faction and Hamas appear to have reached a dead end, Palestinian sources in Ramallah said on Wednesday.
In the past two days, a senior Fatah delegation headed by Azzam al-Ahmad held talks in Cairo with top Egyptian intelligence officials and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss the ongoing dispute with Hamas and efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Gaza-based factions and Israel.
Ahmad told reporters after the meeting with Shoukry that he presented the top Egyptian diplomat with Fatah’s stance on the continued power struggle with Hamas. Ahmad said he made it clear that ending the Fatah-Hamas rift and achieving Palestinian national unity was an important factor in “thwarting Israeli schemes” against the Palestinians.
The sources said the Fatah officials rejected Hamas’s demands to retain security control over the Gaza Strip and collect taxes there. They also rejected Hamas’s demand that the Ramallah-based PA government absorb tens of thousands of Hamas employees in the context of a “reconciliation” deal between the two parties.
“President Abbas is about to take a decision to halt all [PA] funding to the Gaza Strip,” the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported Saturday. “He believes that all opportunities have been exhausted, and it is no longer possible to keep the situation in the Gaza Strip as it is.”
The paper quoted unnamed Ramallah-based sources as saying that Hamas prefers seeking a truce with Israel over achieving “reconciliation” with Fatah. Hamas, the sources added, has abandoned the option of “reconciliation,” and chosen instead escalation against Israel with the hope of reaching a new truce deal.
“The decision to cut all [PA] funding to the Gaza Strip may be taken any moment and will be effective immediately,” the sources said. “The anticipated decision will come after the failure of Egyptian efforts to move forward with the issue of reconciliation, and in the wake of Fatah’s insistence that Hamas allow the [PA] government to issue its full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip and stop the truce negotiations [with Israel].”
Abbas and the PA leadership have strongly criticized Hamas for conducting indirect talks with Israel to reach a new truce agreement in the Gaza Strip. They argue that Hamas is not authorized to negotiate with Israel or any other party over any issue concerning the Palestinians because the PLO alone is “the sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinians.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday accused Fatah of hindering Egyptian efforts to end the dispute between the two rival parties. In a speech in Gaza City, Haniyeh said Fatah’s demand that Hamas relinquish control over the Gaza Strip was the main obstacle to ending the dispute.
“Fatah’s demand that it assume control over everything in the Gaza Strip
is making it difficult to achieve progress,” he said.
The Hamas leader hinted that his movement prefers a truce agreement with Israel over ending the crisis with Fatah. Hamas wants to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip and at the same time achieve “reconciliation” with Fatah, he said. “But connecting the two issues is unsurpassable,” Haniyeh added.
“Hamas will not pay any political price in return for the removal of the blockade [on the Gaza Strip].” He also repeated Hamas’s refusal to lay down its weapons and said any truce agreement would not be part of US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East.
Haniyeh’s remarks drew sharp criticism from Fatah spokesmen who accused Hamas of working toward transforming the Palestinian cause into a “humanitarian issue.” Hamas is “playing with fire,” retorted Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh.
“Hamas wants to take the Palestinian cause back to the humanitarian path, and this is precisely what Israel wants. This constitutes an admission on the part of a Palestinian faction that the Palestinian cause is not about self-determination, freedom, a state, Jerusalem and refugees.”
Fatah Secretary-General Muwafak Sahwil, accused Hamas of “complicity in the war waged by the US administration and Israel on the legitimate leadership of the Palestinians.”
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