'Palestinians are on verge of civil war'

Abbas: Infighting worse than occupation; several wounded in Hamas, Fatah clash.

Hamas gunmen 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hamas gunmen 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas warned Tuesday that his people were on the verge of civil war and said the infighting was worse than living under Israeli military rule. Israel's capture of the West Bank, Gaza and parts of Jerusalem in the Six Day War was a "black day" for the Palestinians, who paid a heavy price for defeat, Abbas said in a televised speech on the anniversary of the start of the war on June 5. Abbas focused on the bloody factional fighting between Fatah and Hamas. The two parties have been governing in an uneasy coalition since March, after a year of Hamas-only rule, but another round of deadly gun battles erupted in May. "Regarding our internal situation, what concerns us all is the chaos, and more specifically, being on the verge of civil war," Abbas said. He said he has spent hundreds of negotiating hours trying to halt the bloodshed, "realizing that what is equal to or even worse than occupation is internal fighting." Abbas warned that factional fighting had harmed the Palestinians' standing in the world. He also criticized Palestinian operatives, who captured IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit a year ago and continued to fire rockets at southern Israel after the 2005 disengagement. Abbas said the operatives only invited Israeli retaliation that had left hundreds of Palestinians dead. Abbas said he wanted to move forward instead of affixing blame, and was not trying to restore calm by negotiating a cease-fire with Israel. Hours earlier, a two-hour gunfight broke out between Hamas and Fatah near the Karni crossing in Gaza. A number of Hamas members were wounded, in addition to one of Abbas's security guards. Hamas blamed Fatah security men for opening fire, Army Radio reported. Earlier Tuesday morning, a Hamas parliament member speculated that the violent confrontations between Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip would begin again soon, according to Israel Radio. Salah al-Bardawel, a member of the PA parliament, told the London newspaper Al-Quds al-Arab that in talks held last week in Cairo, representatives of Hamas and Fatah quarreled over the issue of Kassam rocket fire at Israel. Two weeks ago, Hamas and Fatah signed a fifth cease-fire deal in an attempt to stop escalating violence in Gaza. The truce held for only a couple of hours. In a meeting held at the Egyptian consulate in Gaza under Egyptian supervision, it was agreed that all combatants would disarm and leave the streets.