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Hamas slams Abbas' presence at Peres funeral as 'betrayal of Palestinian blood'

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C) sits alongside European Council President Donald Tusk (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the funeral of former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres
Abir Sultan (POOL/AFP)
Abbas' Fatah party says attendance sends message of peace, that Palestinians do not 'believe only in violence'

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was harshly rebuked by Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas for attending the funeral of the late former Israeli President Shimon Peres on Friday.

Hamas deemed Abbas' presence at the ceremony at Mount Herzl cemetery in west Jerusalem "a betrayal of Palestinian blood."

The criticism continued online after a picture in which Abbas appears to tear up at the funeral went viral on social media networks.

"What makes you cry, Abbas? Is Peres’ departure so painful?" a Hamas-affiliated Twitter account wrote, according to Ynet.

The group had earlier derided Abbas for offering condolences to Peres's family, saying it "disregards the blood of the martyrs and the suffering of the Palestinian people."

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But Abbas' Fatah party responded, saying that Abbas' attendance at the funeral sends a message that Palestinians want peace.

"The participation is part of the responsibilities placed on Abu Mazen as the Palestinian president, due to the attention the world gave the funeral, and part of the action to stop the Netanyahu government’s scare campaign against the Palestinian Authority and the attempts by Israel to convince the world that we believe only in violence," a Fatah statement said, referring to Abbas by nickname.

Abbas's Fatah movement was expelled from the Gaza Strip by Hamas in a violent overthrow in 2007. The two movements now each control part of the Palestinian territories, with Hamas in charge in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank.

Abbas had known Peres well and negotiated with him in the past. He was seated in the front row at Peres' funeral, reportedly at the request of Peres's family.

Abbas, who was a signatory of the Oslo accords for which Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, called him a "brave" partner for peace.

AFP/Archives

In an extremely rare move, he shook hands and spoke briefly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon arrival.

"Long time," Abbas said as he greeted Netanyahu and wife Sarah. Netanyahu responded telling Abbas his attendance is "something that I appreciate very much on behalf of our people and on behalf of us."

While Peres is hailed in the West as a peacemaker, many in the Arab world, including among the Palestinians, regard him a "war criminal", citing his involvement in successive Arab-Israeli wars, the occupation of Palestinian territory, and his support for settlement building before his work on Oslo.

He was also prime minister in 1996 when more than 100 civilians were killed while sheltering at a UN peacekeepers' base in the Lebanese village of Qana fired upon by Israel.

Abbas was one of few representatives of Arab nations present at the funeral. Egypt was represented by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Jordan too sent a minister.

HO (Israeli Prime Minister's spokesman/AFP)

(Staff with agencies)

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