hamas rally 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas has urged its supporters in the Gaza Strip to demonstrate on Friday in favor of the Islamic movement and against attempts by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to undermine the Hamas-led government.
Meanwhile, sources close to Abbas said Thursday that he was planning to travel to the Gaza Strip in the next few days for additional talks with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on the formation of a unity government.
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Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-led government, expressed hope that the talks would help ease tensions between the two parties and pave the way for the creation of a unity government.
The demonstrations, which will take place immediately after Friday prayers in the mosques, are being held under the banner of "No to the Conspiracies of the Evils." Hamas officials said they expected hundreds of thousands to pour into the streets in the largest ever show of force by the movement.
The demonstrators have been asked to gather at the Yarmouk soccer field in Gaza City for a major rally, at which Hamas leaders are expected to address the crowd. Hamas will also provide transportation for people living outside Gaza City.
The planned demonstrations are seen as a direct challenge to Abbas and Fatah and mark yet another escalation in the crisis between the two parties.
"We will show Abbas the real power of Hamas," said a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip. "This will be a kind of a referendum in which the people will express their opinion about Abbas's attempts to topple the Hamas government, which came to power in free and democratic elections."
A top PA official in Ramallah said Thursday that Abbas had reached the conclusion that the only way to resolve the crisis is by firing the Hamas-led government and asking an independent figure to head a new government. If Hamas decides to challenge the new government, he said, Abbas will have to call new elections.
Khalil Abu Lailah, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, accused Abbas of forming a "shadow government" in his office. He said Abbas was continuing to behave as if there were no elected government. "He's completely ignoring the legitimate government," he said. "He travels abroad only with his advisers and senior aides and never asks a representative of the government to accompany him."
Commenting on the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Ramallah on Wednesday, Hamas on Thursday called on Abbas not to succumb to American pressure and to act in accordance with the interests of the Palestinians.
"Rice came to the region to implement her own agenda, which includes overthrowing the [Hamas] government," said a statement issued by Hamas in Gaza City. "We urge Abbas to resume negotiations with Hamas over the formation of a national unity government and not to listen to the Americans."
Jamal Nazzal, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, accused Hamas leaders based in Damascus of thwarting Abbas's efforts to establish a unity government on the basis of a political platform that would be acceptable to the international community.
"The Hamas leadership in Damascus is calling the shots in Hamas," he said. "The Palestinians did not vote for Hamas so that the movement could authorize its leaders abroad to make decision and run their affairs. [Hamas leaders] Khaled Mashaal and Musa Abu Marzouk are working behind the scenes to influence the decision-making process and to gain control over Palestinian institutions."
Nazzal criticized Haniyeh for issuing radical statements during Abbas's recent visit to New York. "Haniyeh said that the Arab peace plan, which talks about a two-state solution and a solution to the problem of the refugees, is not enough for peace," he said.
"These remarks foiled Abbas's efforts to convince the international community to resume financial aid to the Palestinians. The statements created the impression among European leaders that the Palestinians were not prepared to make peace with Israel even after the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories that were occupied in 1967."