Abbas opens Swiss museum exhibition on Gaza history

Palestinian Authority chairman announces that his gov't is looking to build new museum of Palestinian history in Bethlehem.

Abbas museum 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas museum 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas opened an exhibition of ancient artifacts from Gaza on Thursday, but refused to answer any questions about the political situation in the Middle East. Speaking to reporters after a tour of the archaeological treasures on display at Geneva's Museum of Art and History, Abbas declined to field questions from reporters about the viability of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, or the fragile state of a cease-fire agreed with Israel in the Gaza Strip. Focusing on cultural issues, Abbas announced that his government was looking to build a new museum of Palestinian history in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. He said the project would complement a US$30 million archaeological museum planned in Gaza, where the objects currently on show in Geneva will be permanently housed. Most of the artifacts, ranging from a more than 4,000-year-old bone dagger handle to Roman-era statuettes, belong to the collection of Palestinian businessman Jawdat Khoudary, whose construction company unearthed the objects during building works in Gaza. Abbas said the exhibition was testament to the importance of promoting cultural dialogue, "instead of searching for conflicts among civilizations." The exhibition did not include any objects held in Israeli collections. Abbas planned to meet Switzerland's President Micheline Calmy-Rey later Thursday. Earlier this week, Hamas launched dozens of rockets at southern Israel, causing no serious damage or injuries, but threatening a tenuous Gaza cease-fire that has been in place since November. So far Israel has ruled out a large-scale invasion of the territory in response to the attacks, but officials warned of "harsh steps" if the terrroists continued to fire rockets.