Rice stern 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas reacted strongly to reports over the weekend that the US was planning to allocate millions of dollars to support Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party.
Hamas leaders accused the US of meddling in Palestinians' internal affairs by seeking to overthrow the Hamas-led government.
PA and Fatah officials, on the other hand, expressed concern that the reports would damage the credibility of Abbas and make him appear to be a "collaborator" with the US and Israel.
Although they denied the reports when speaking on the record, some officials said Washington was already providing financial aid to opponents of the PA government.
Meanwhile, two people were killed and more than 30 were wounded on Friday in armed clashes between Hamas and Fatah supporters in the northern Gaza Strip even as the IDF was operating in the area.
According to Reuters, the US has quietly started a campaign to bolster opponents of the PA government projected to cost up to $42 million, ahead of possible early Palestinian elections.
The news agency cited an official US document as saying: "This project supports [the] objective to create democratic alternatives to authoritarian or radical Islamist political options."
The plan to promote alternatives to Hamas includes funding to restructure Fatah and to encourage watchdog groups and local journalists to investigate the activities of the Hamas-controlled government and parliament.
US officials and consultants said the effort was being conducted without fanfare to protect Palestinians who were receiving US help.
"We don't operate with firecrackers and neon signs to attract attention to ourselves," Reuters quoted one contractor working with Fatah on behalf of the US State Department as saying.
According to other reports last week, the US has begun training and funding members of Abbas's Force 17 "presidential guard" ahead of a possible confrontation with Hamas.
"Prior to the [January] parliamentary election, the US gave money to some Palestinian individuals and parties, but it failed to achieve its goal," said Ahmed Youssef, political adviser to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
"The money will not help bolster any group because Hamas enjoys tremendous popular support. If Fatah wants to return to power, it must not rely on American money. All the money in the world will not bring Fatah back to power," he said.
Hamas legislator and spokesman Salah Bardaweel accused Abbas's aides of plotting with the US to overthrow the PA led government.
He said the aides, whom he did not mention by name, accompanied Abbas on his last visit to the US in an effort to convince the Bush administration to back their efforts to topple the government.
A Hamas official, however, named Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO executive committee and a senior adviser to Abbas, as playing a major role in trying to persuade the US to help overthrow the government.
Fatah leader Muhammad Hourani denied the reports about US financial aid and held the Israeli media responsible for disseminating "lies." He said the reports were aimed at disrupting Abbas's efforts to achieve "national unity."
In another development, a Fatah legislator who described the Hamas government as "racist, fascist and terrorist" was beaten by Hamas supporters in the Gaza Strip. Sources in Gaza City said Ala Yaghi had received death threats after he launched a scathing attack against Hamas at a press conference on Friday.