Israel thwarted a plot by the Izz a-Din al-Kassam Brigades of the Hamas to assassinate Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, according to reports in the British Sunday Times newspaper on Sunday morning. Reportedly, the Izz a-Din faction of Hamas planned to kill Abbas during his visit to the Gaza Strip. Following information received by Israeli intelligence, Abbas cancelled his planned visit. According to The Times, the Hamas operatives also intended to assassinate Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip Mohammed Dahlan. The report comes in the wake increased tensions between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah, with both sides spreading rumors about the other. Hamas officials are openly accusing Abbas and his senior aides of conspiring with the US and Israel to bring down the Hamas cabinet. While Fatah leaders have accused Hamas of hypocrisy and incompetence, Hamas spokesmen say they are the victims of a US-led conspiracy to oust their democratically elected government. Leaflets recently distributed by Hamas-affiliated groups in the Gaza Strip have specifically implicated Fatah operatives Muhammad Dahlan, and Samir Mashharawi. The crisis has been aggravated by Abbas's decision to cut the powers of the Hamas cabinet, making it almost impossible for each minister to hire a private secretary or deputy. At the end of April, reports emerged that al-Qaida was planning to assassinate top PA leaders. The threats prompted PA security forces to take strict measures to guarantee the safety of the leaders, including Abbas, whose villa in Ramallah was completely cordoned off. Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.