The crisis in the Palestinian territories over the Palestinian Authority's decision to defer a vote at the Human Rights Council on the findings of Judge Richard Goldstone's commission of inquiry into Operation Cast Lead aggravated over the weekend as Egypt agreed to postpone the signing of a "reconciliation accord" between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas officials said the decision to delay the reconciliation came at the request of the movement, which dispatched a high-level delegation to Cairo to discuss the issue with the Egyptian authorities. The delegation, headed by Musa Abu Marzouk, told the Egyptians that Hamas feels this is not the appropriate time for reconciliation with Fatah, especially in light of PA President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to scuttle the vote at the UN Human Rights Council. Hamas fears that a high-profile agreement with Fatah at this stage would benefit Abbas and help him out of the crisis surrounding his controversial move, which has sparked a wave of unprecedented condemnations from many Palestinians and Arabs. Over the past few days, Hamas leaders have come under immense pressure from their followers and other radical Palestinian groups to refrain from signing any agreement with Abbas. In Gaza City, Palestinians continued over the weekend to throw shoes at pictures of Abbas that were displayed in public places, in protest against his decision. In some areas in the West Bank, on the other hand, Fatah sent its supporters, and policemen in civilian clothing, to demonstrate in support of Abbas. The PA has also banned anti-Abbas demonstrations in the West Bank. Hamas's request that the signing ceremony be postponed has enraged the Fatah faction, whose representatives accused the Islamist movement of exploiting the controversy over the Goldstone Report vote to foil Egypt's mediation efforts. Last week the Egyptians announced that Hamas and Fatah would sign a long-awaited "reconciliation accord" in Cairo on October 26. The Egyptians said the ceremony was the fruit of months of intensive diplomatic efforts. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the Hamas delegation explained to the Egyptians that it would not be able to sign an agreement with Fatah in the wake of "public anger over Abbas's decision to kill the Goldstone Report." He added: "Our position is that Hamas can't put its hand in the hands of someone like Mahmoud Abbas, who has betrayed his people and demonstrated disrespect for the victims of Israeli aggression and war crimes." According to Barhoum, the Egyptians agreed "in principle" and even displayed understanding of Hamas's position toward the "Goldstone scandal." Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel said his movement would never be able to strike a deal with a Palestinian who "betrayed his people and the blood of Palestinian martyrs." Bardaweel said that Egyptian General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who met with the Hamas team over the weekend, proposed a new date for the signing of the accord. However, the Hamas official refused to say when, if ever, the agreement would be signed with Fatah. Izzat al-Rishek, a Hamas official based in Syria who participated in the talks with Suleiman, said his movement would study the new Egyptian proposal before giving a final reply. Rishek ruled out the possibility that Hamas would sign an agreement with Fatah as long as Abbas is in power. "This man must apologize to the Palestinians for his crime," he said. Ayman Taha, another Hamas official from the Gaza Strip, said his movement had been planning to sign the agreement with Fatah on October 26 until the uproar over Abbas's move at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. "Hamas is keen on ending the dispute and achieving national unity," Taha said. "But what Abbas did was very serious, because he triggered a crisis in the Palestinian arena." Jibril Rajoub, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, expressed regret over Hamas's demand that the reconciliation be delayed, dubbing the move a "big mistake." Rajoub accused Hamas of exploiting the crisis over the Goldstone Report to "destroy" the Egyptian mediation efforts. Another Fatah operative, Jamal Nazzal, urged Abbas to ban Hamas from participating in new elections because of its "rejectionist, separatist and immoral" policies. Nazzal claimed that the Likud party was working toward bringing Hamas to power through presidential and parliamentary elections. According to Nazzal, some Arab media outlets were "colluding" with the Likud to help it remove the PA from power and bring Hamas to the West Bank. Jamal Muhaisen, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said his faction still hasn't been notified by the Egyptians of any decision to postpone the reconciliation ceremony. Muhaisen accused Hamas of hypocrisy, noting that the Goldstone Report had also accused the movement of perpetrating war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead. He added that Egypt and Tunisia were among several Arab and Islamic countries that had originally supported the PA's decision to defer the vote at the UN Human Rights Council.