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PA President Mahmoud Abbas looks on during a reception ceremony for Bulgarian President Rumen Radev in Ramallah, in the West Bank, March 22, 2018.(Photo by: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Abbas to visit Qatar for talks on truce, reconciliation proposal
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the senior officials of his movement held intensive discussions with representatives of all Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip about the cease-fire proposal.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to visit Qatar on Wednesday for talks with the country's Emir Tamim bin Hamed al-Thani on the latest developments in the region, including efforts to broker a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel and achieve Palestinian unity.

Meanwhile, senior Hamas officials are expected to return to Cairo in the coming days to brief Egyptian intelligence officials on the movement's position regarding a long-term truce with Israel.

Munir Ghanem, the PA envoy to Doha, told the Voice of Palestine radio station that Abbas’s visit to Qatar will last two for days. The visit, he said, comes in the context of coordination between the PA leadership and Arab leaders on a number of issues of common interest.

Abbas, according to Palestinian sources in Ramallah, has expressed reservations about the recent Egyptian and UN initiative to reach a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel.

Abbas maintains that Hamas is not authorized to sign such a deal because it does not have any “representative status” as it had violently seized control over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

In the past few days, Abbas and senior officials of his Fatah faction have warned Hamas against striking any deal with Israel before ending the dispute between the two rival factions. Some PA and Fatah officials have gone as far as claiming that the proposed truce was part of US President Donald Trump's yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East. They claim that the plan, which is also known known as the deal of the century, is aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause.

In June 2017, Egypt, together with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, cut its diplomatic relations with Qatar and accused its rulers of supporting terrorism, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government banned the Muslim Brotherhood after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2014.

Abbas’s visit to Qatar is seen as a sign of tensions between the Ramallah-based PA leadership and the Egyptians, who have been exerting immense pressure on Hamas and Fatah to end their power struggle and agree to the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

Last Thursday, a senior Hamas delegation consisting of four leaders of the movement who live abroad arrived in the Gaza Strip for consultations on the Egyptian and UN cease-fire proposal. The four – Saleh Arouri, Musa Abu Marzouk, Ezzat al-Risheq and Hussam Badran – are scheduled to return to Cairo soon for more discussions with the Egyptians on the cease-fire initiative.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Tuesday that the senior officials of his movement held intensive discussions with representatives of all Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip about the cease-fire proposal. Haniyeh did not say whether Hamas and the Palestinian factions had accepted the proposal.

However, he said that Hamas has taken a number of decisions during the discussions in the Gaza Strip over the past five days, but did not elaborate.

Haniyeh said the discussions also focused on Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the mass protests along the border with Israel, which the Palestinians call the March of Return, and the blockade on the coastal enclave.

Haniyeh said that the visit by the top Hamas leaders to the Gaza Strip “underscores the right of return” for Palestinians to their former homes inside Israel. “Their return to the Gaza Strip is a preface for the return to Jerusalem, the West Bank and the territories that were occupied in 1948,” he said.

Arouri, the top Hamas leader, said on Tuesday that the discussions in the Gaza Strip focused on two issues; ending the crisis with Fatah, and lifting the blockade. Hamas, he said, was serious in its intention to end the rivalry with Fatah.

Arouri praised the March of Return protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel which began in March, and said they were the “worst nightmare” for Israel. Hamas, he added, was not afraid of Trump’s unseen peace plan, “but we have to be united in our stance and adherence to our rights.” The Palestinians, he said, “must be ready to defend themselves and prevent any conspiracy against their cause.”‭‮
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