The deposed Hamas PA prime minister toured the house of former Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat on Saturday and said he phoned the wife of the late Palestinian leader to assure her the property was not damaged during Gaza's civil war. The tour by Ismail Haniyeh was an attempt to counter allegations by the rival Fatah movement that Hamas gunmen had broken into Arafat's Gaza City home two days after the end of fighting. During the visit, Haniyeh placed a phone call, and his aides said it was to Arafat's widow Suha in Tunisia.
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"I will send a video of my tour for you to be sure the house is safe and under protection," Haniyeh said on the phone, with reporters watching. "The house of Abu Ammar is one of the national symbols in Gaza ... and will remain under protection."
During Saturday's tour, there was no apparent sign of damage.
One of Arafat's green military fatigues was spread on his bed on the ground floor. Furniture was pushed together in the middle of the room and covered with sheets. A gun, presumably belonging to Arafat, was visible in a display case.
In his tour, Haniyeh tried to harness Arafat's continued popularity, suggesting Arafat and Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin shared the same views.
"We will follow the same path of President Arafat and Sheik Ahmed Yassin to protect the unity of Palestinian people," Haniyeh said in the phone call. "We will protect this heritage."
Haniyeh was fired as prime minister by Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, after the Hamas takeover of Gaza. However, Hamas has refused to accept Abbas' decision to dismantle the Hamas-led government and replace it with an emergency Cabinet of moderates.