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(photo credit: AP)
Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip admitted Saturday that they were caught by surprise by the massive IDF operation in the Gaza Strip and accused the Palestinian Authority and Egypt of "collusion" with Israel.
The officials also expressed deep disappointment over the failure of the Arab and Islamic world to exert pressure on Israel to halt the operation. Until the last minute, Hamas was convinced that the threats to launch an IDF operation were mere rhetoric in the context of the upcoming election campaign in Israel.
In Ramallah, the PLO executive committee called for a general strike and a day of mourning Monday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to protest against the Israeli "massacres." Meanwhile, Egyptian and PA officials who strongly condemned the IDF drive also held Hamas responsible for the latest cycle of violence by continuing to fire rockets at Israel.
Hamas's top leaders have not been seen in public since last Thursday, when news about an impending IDF operation began spreading.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas cut short a visit to Saudi Arabia and headed to Amman for talks with King Abdullah about the latest developments in the Gaza Strip. Abbas's office issued a statement strongly condemning the Israeli "atrocities" and calling for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
A Hamas official told The Jerusalem Post that the reason why security installations in the Gaza Strip had not been evacuated before the attack was because the Egyptians had assured his movement that there would be no Israeli attack in the coming days.
"Only hours before the attack, the Egyptians told our representatives that they were under the impression that Israel would not launch an operation," the Hamas official said. "We believe the Egyptians deliberately deceived us because they had given Israel a green light to attack."
Another Hamas official told the Post that Abbas and his top aides had long been urging Israel to bring down the Hamas government so that they could return to the Gaza Strip.
The official pointed out that both Abbas and the Egyptians had announced shortly before the Israeli attack that they were engaged in attempts to resume "national dialogue" between Fatah and Hamas.
"The Egyptians even made it clear to us that they had convinced Israel not to attack the Gaza Strip," he said. "Abbas also wanted to reassure Hamas by talking about his intention to renew the reconciliation talks with us."
Taher a-Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas government, accused "third parties" of involvement in the Israeli effort to overthrow Hamas. However, he refused to name the third parties.
A Hamas minister later said that the spokesman was referring to Egypt and the PA.
Nunu told reporters in Gaza City that Hamas would not "raise a white flag" and would not make any political concessions as a result of the IDF operation. He also stressed that Hamas would not accept the conditions set by the Quartet for dealing with his government - first and foremost that it recognize Israel and renounce terrorism.
"The Hamas government will remain steadfast in the face of all the conspirators and we defend our people who voted for us in a free election [in January 2006]," he said. "This aggression will only increase our determination to pursue the path of resistance against the occupation."
Mussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official based in Damascus, claimed that some Arab parties had pushed Israel to launch the attack. "We are astonished by reports according to which some parties have been urging Israel to wipe out Hamas," he said. "We are also shocked to hear officials in Ramallah and Cairo blame Hamas for the Israel aggression."
Abu Marzouk claimed that the IDF operation was designed to force the Palestinians to succumb and make political concessions. "The Israeli enemy won't succeed in achieving its goal," he said. "In the past, they launched a military operation in the northern Gaza Strip and imposed blockades which didn't work."