Abbas wants Arab monitors in Gaza

Tells Egyptian President Mubarak Arab force would help "restore law and order" to the Gaza Strip.

Abbas mubarak 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas mubarak 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has appealed to a number of Arab countries to consider dispatching troops to the Gaza Strip, PA officials said. Abbas, who met in Cairo Sunday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said an Arab peacekeeping force would help "restore law and order" to the Gaza Strip and pave the way for ending the Fatah-Hamas schism, the officials told The Jerusalem Post. However, Egypt did not appear to be "excited" about sending soldiers to Gaza, the officials said. A senior Hamas official in the Strip rejected Abbas's initiative and warned that his movement would not allow soldiers from any country to enter the area. The Hamas official also dismissed Abbas's call to resume talks between Hamas and Fatah without preconditions. Following his session with Mubarak, Abbas declared that he had agreed with the Egyptian president to launch "reconciliation" talks with Hamas immediately and without condition. He said representatives of all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, would be invited to Cairo in the next few days to participate in the discussions. Abbas said Fatah was keen to restore unity among the Palestinians. "We don't have preconditions regarding the national dialogue," he told reporters. "The talks, which will be held under the auspices of the Egyptian government, would be based on previous initiatives by the Arab League foreign ministers and some Arab countries." He dismissed allegations that the US had threatened to veto any attempt by Fatah to end the dispute with Hamas. "I didn't hear that there's an American veto on internal Palestinian dialogue. If such a thing happens, we won't accept it because we won't allow anyone to intervene in our internal affairs," he said. Referring to the bomb that killed five Hamas militiamen on Friday and the subsequent Hamas crackdown on Fatah figures and institutions, Abbas said these were "painful and regrettable" incidents. He also rejected Hamas's allegation that Fatah was behind the attack, which also killed a seven-year-old girl and wounded more than 20 people. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza City, voiced skepticism regarding Abbas's call for the resumption of talks with Hamas. He accused the PA president and Fatah of seeking to divert attention from Friday's explosion. Abu Zuhri scoffed at Abbas's expression of sorrow over the death of the Hamas militiamen. "This is meaningless talk," the Hamas spokesman said. "Abbas knows that Fatah was behind the bombing." Abu Zuhri added that Hamas hadn't yet received an invitation from Cairo to attend any talks with other Palestinian factions. "We heard about the talks for the first time from Abbas today," he said. "When and if the Egyptians invite us, we will study the invitation." He revealed that Hamas security forces had discovered explosives during raids on several Fatah-affiliated institutions in the Gaza Strip over the past 48 hours. Most of the Fatah members who were arrested following the attack were released within hours, Abu Zuhri said. Also on Sunday, Hamas announced that forces loyal to Abbas had arrested 36 Hamas supporters in the West Bank in the past 24 hours. Eyewitnesses reported that an armed clash took place early Sunday between Hamas policemen and members of the Army of Islam gang in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City. No casualties were reported. The fighting began when the Hamas security personnel tried to arrest members of the gang, which is controlled and operated by the notorious Dughmush clan. Fatah officials in Ramallah said that at least 160 Fatah members had been arrested by Hamas since Friday night's explosion. They said the Hamas security forces had also raided or closed dozens of Fatah-affiliated institutions, including many nongovernmental organizations. Early Sunday, Hamas policemen arrested Omar al-Farra, director of the PA's official news agency Wafa in the southern Gaza Strip. Hamas also issued warnings to several Palestinian journalists and media outlets against "favoring" Fatah in their coverage of the latest tensions. Farra was the second journalist to be arrested by Hamas during the recent crackdown on Fatah. On Saturday, Hamas's security forces arrested freelance journalist Sawwah Abu Seif. Naim Toubassi, chairman of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, accused Hamas of launching a "despicable campaign of intimidation and terror" against Palestinian reporters.