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The Hamas government wants to reach a cease-fire with Israel and will try to persuade other Palestinian factions to stop firing Kassam rockets, cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad announced on Thursday.
He said this was conditional on Israel halting its attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "This is not a new issue," he said. "We're not opposed to calm and stability in the area. The problem is with Israel, which is responsible for the latest escalation."
Hamad's remarks came amid ongoing tension between Hamas and Fatah, whose leaders on Thursday accused the Islamic movement of failing to fulfill its promise to remove its new security force from the streets of the Gaza Strip.
According to the Fatah leaders, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh promised earlier this week, during a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that he would remove the force immediately. In response, Abbas reportedly promised to recruit the Hamas militiamen to various branches of the PA security forces.
Fatah spokesman Abdel Hakim Awad said Hamas was violating the agreement by keeping its force in the streets. "They are continuing to roam the streets in a provocative manner," he said. "Apparently there is a dispute inside Hamas about the role of this force. The government has repeatedly promised to pull back the force, but nothing has happened."
He accused the Hamas force of targeting Fatah members and terrorizing the public. "This force is responsible for a spate of kidnappings and killings," he charged. "They are trying to trigger civil war."
Former Fatah minister Muhammad Dahlan accused Hamas of leading the Palestinians toward disaster. "We are slowly moving toward the abyss," he cautioned. "This is a no-win situation."
Dahlan said Hamas's security force was responsible for the growing tension, adding that its members were behind acts of sabotage and killings. He also accused the Hamas force of killing the driver of the Jordanian ambassador in Gaza City last month.
Meanwhile, Abbas said during a visit to Nablus on Thursday that he would reconsider his decision to hold a referendum on the prisoners' document if Hamas accepted its terms. He strongly condemned the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip and the launching of suicide bombings from the West Bank, saying such actions gave Israel an excuse to continue its attacks on the Palestinians.
Abbas accused Hamas and Islamic Jihad of receiving orders from abroad to escalate the situation to serve the interests of foreign countries. He was apparently referring to Iran and Syria, the two countries that are openly supporting Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
He also mocked Hamas for smuggling money into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing. "Yesterday they smuggled in $20 million and today another $2 million," he noted. "As the president of Palestine I'm not opposed to this. But I wonder if the government could function on the basis of smuggling."
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