Fatah decries mosque 'incitement'

Hamas officials dismiss claims as "lies," accuse Fatah of incitement.

fatah prayers 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
fatah prayers 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
In yet another indication of growing tensions between the two movements, Fatah sympathizers in the Gaza Strip have begun boycotting Hamas-controlled mosques, accusing the Islamist movement of inciting against their leaders. On Friday, thousands of worshipers refused to enter the Farouk Mosque in the Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, saying the preacher was planning to verbally attack Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and other PA leaders. The Fatah supporters prayed in the streets while their Hamas rivals prayed inside the mosque. Like most mosques in the Strip, the Farouk Mosque is controlled by Hamas. Leaders of Abbas's Fatah party have in recent weeks expressed deep concern over "incitement" in the mosques, saying Hamas preachers were exploiting Friday prayers to launch scathing attacks on them. Hamas officials dismissed the allegations as "lies" and said the only incitement was that coming from Fatah. This is the first time that Fatah supporters are boycotting Friday prayers at a mosque in the Gaza Strip. Preachers at the services often target Israel, the US and corruption in the PA. Maher Miqdad, a Fatah spokesman in the Strip, accused Hamas of using the mosques to incite against political rivals. "They are preparing the stage for bloodshed," he said. "Some of them have even been calling for the elimination of their opponents, whom they describe as apostates and infidels." A Fatah-affiliated businessman in Gaza City told The Jerusalem Post he had stopped going to the mosque near his home because of the incitement. "Hamas has turned the mosques in the Gaza Strip into platforms for delivering political speeches," he said. "They have decorated the mosques with political signs and banners and the preachers are saying awful things against Abbas and other Fatah leaders." In Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, thousands of Fatah supporters also boycotted prayers at a local mosque on Friday. They too prayed outside the mosque. Hamas has been using Friday prayers to urge Palestinians to donate to the new PA government and to criticize Palestinian officials for allegedly conspiring against Hamas. Most of the attacks have been directed against Abbas and Fatah leaders Muhammed Dahlan, former PA minister of state for security affairs head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service in the Gaza Strip, Jibril Rajoub, former head of the PSS in the West Bank, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, Abbas's top aide, and Abu Ali Shaheen, a former PA minister for supplies who founded Fatah along with Yasser Arafat. In Nablus, thousands of Hamas followers gathered after prayers Friday to donate money and jewelry to the new government. "These donations are our way of telling the world that we can live without them, and our children are paying what the Europeans should be paying," said Bassam al-Shakaa, a former mayor of Nablus. Organizers said more than NIS 1 million was collected during the drive. Last week, during a similar campaign in Ramallah, residents donated over $60,000 to the Hamas-controlled PA. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders on Saturday demanded an apology from Abdel Rahim over allegations that its members had smuggled weapons into Jordan. Abdel Rahim called on Hamas to punish members who were supposedly involved, drawing sharp criticism from Hamas leaders. "After being acquainted with the details of the plot, we call on the [Hamas] government to condemn this action and to take daring steps to punish those responsible," he said, referring to Jordanian charges that Hamas had smuggled and stored weapons and ammunition in the kingdom in preparation for terrorist attacks. Hamas spokesmen described Abdel Rahim's statements as "irresponsible" and demanded an apology, accusing him of serving the interests of a "third party."