Abbas to visit Gaza for dialogue with Hamas

Visit is first since group's takeover of the Strip; Fatah officials not ruling out talks with rival leaders.

Abbas hung over 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas hung over 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to visit the Gaza Strip for the first time since Hamas's violent takeover of the area in June 2007, Fatah officials said Tuesday. The announcement came as two senior Fatah officials - Hikmat Zeid, a former PA minister, and Marwan Abdel Hamid, a top adviser to Abbas - arrived in the Gaza Strip for talks that may pave the way for reconciliation between their faction and Hamas. The officials did not give a date for Abbas's planned visit, but said it would take place "soon." The visit, the first of its kind to the Gaza Strip in a year, follows Abbas's recent initiative to launch unconditional talks with Hamas about ways of ending the dispute between the two parties. Zeid and Abdel Hamid told reporters upon their arrival that they came to brief representatives of various Palestinian groups on Abbas's initiative. The two did not rule out the possibility of also holding talks with Hamas leaders. "We have been entrusted with ensuring the success of a comprehensive national dialogue," Abdel Hamid said. "We came here to emphasize that President Abbas is serious about his initiative." Zeid refused to confirm or deny reports that he and Abdel Hamid were carrying a message from Abbas to the Hamas leadership. "We will meet with anyone who wants to meet with us," he said. "President Abbas is eager to visit the Gaza Strip and we have good intentions to end the dispute." The visit also coincided with the announcement by Hamas and Egypt that a cease-fire with Israel would go into effect Thursday morning. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a senior Fatah official in Ramallah, said the two emissaries would also hold talks with Fatah leaders and activists in the Gaza Strip to explain the reconciliation initiative. He said Fatah and its leaders were working toward creating a "positive climate" to achieve national unity with Hamas, adding that Abbas was sincere about solving the crisis. Muhammad Dahlan, the former Fatah security chief in the Gaza Strip, expressed support for Abbas's efforts to patch up differences with Hamas. However, he said he did not believe that Hamas was interested in ending its "coup." In an interview with the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, Dahlan said he did not consider Hamas an enemy, but a "rival." He also scoffed at Hamas's claims that its forces had seized stores of weapons belonging to Fatah in the Gaza Strip. "They only seized caravans that were used as toilets by members of the Palestinian security forces," he said. "Hamas is committing every day thousands of mistakes and crimes. Hamas is a failed group that has wrought disaster on us."