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Hamas, Palestinian factions condemn Abbas measures against Gaza

Hamas supporters take part in a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement, in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017
MOHAMMED ABED (AFP)
Abbas' speech marks a new low in Hamas-Fatah relationship, threatening reconciliation deal signed last year

Hamas condemned a fiery speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from Ramallah on Monday evening, in which he announced new sanctions against the blockaded enclave and directly accused the Gaza-based Islamist group of being behind the March 13 attack on Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Speaking to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said if the attack on Hamdallah had succeeded it would have "opened the way for a bloody civil war."

He said the incident would "not be allowed to pass" and announced he would take unspecified "national, legal and financial measures."

The Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip said Abbas’ “irresponsible statements” sought to “bring our people in the Gaza Strip to their knees at this difficult and dangerous phase.”

Hamas added that his remarks “undermine the prospects of advancing the Palestinian national project and achieving national unity.”

The group called for new elections “so that the people would be able to choose their leadership.”

The harsh criticism comes amid great tension between Hamas and the PA, which have failed to implement a reconciliation framework signed in October last year aimed at ending a decade-long split between the rival Palestinian factions.

ABBAS MOMANI (AFP)

One of the key tenets of the reconciliation deal was the Abbas’ lifting of punishing financial sanctions imposed on Hamas, including withholding payment to thousands of Hamas employees and refusing to pay for electricity.

Hamas said that Abbas is “enhancing the separation between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, paving the way for the implementation of the scheme of chaos and President Trump’s deal of the century and Zionist projects,” referring the the US President’s highly-anticipated peace plan.

Abbas said that “the outcome of reconciliation talks with Hamas is the assassination attempt of Hammadallah and Faraj”, which Hamas denied having anything to do with.

Hamas condemned what it called Abbas's "provocative positions," saying its security services were still investigating the explosion.

“Abbas is tampering with the process of justice and investigation”, Hamas said.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also condemned Abbas’ speech, saying it “endangers Palestinian unity and provides additional support for Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.”

PIJ senior official in the Gaza Strip, Khader Habib, called for a Palestinian “intifada” which should target the “entire political system.” adding that Abbas’ sanctions against Gaza were “subjugating and humiliating the Palestinians and their resistance.”

SAID KHATIB (AFP/File)

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), one of several PLO terror groups, said that Abbas’s new measures were directed against “reconciliation,” Hamas, and the Palestinian “resistance” in the Gaza Strip.

“Imposing the sanctions will lead to the collapse of the Gaza Strip,” the PFLP warned.

Apart from internal Palestinian criticism, Abbas’ speech, in which he also called the US Ambassador to Israel a “settler and a son of a dog”, was widely condemned in Israel and the US.

“Three young Israelis were murdered over the weekend ... in cold blood by Palestinian terrorist and a reaction from the Palestinian Authority was deafening. No condemnation," Friedman said.

“His response was to refer to me as son of a dog. Is that anti-Semitism or political discourse? I leave that up to you," the US diplomat added.

Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, also commented on Abbas’ remarks, saying “the time has come for President Abbas to choose between hateful rhetoric and concrete and practical efforts to improve the quality of life of his people and lead them to peace and prosperity."

"Notwithstanding his highly inappropriate insults against members of the Trump administration, the latest iteration being his insult of my good friend and colleague Ambassador David Friedman, we are committed to the Palestinian people and to the changes that must be implemented for peaceful coexistence,” Greenblatt said.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, remarked that "for the first time in dozens of years the American administration has stopped pampering the Palestinian leaders.”

“Apparently the shock from the truth made them lose their heads."

But Abbas’ Fatah faction stood behind its leader’s comments, posting a photo of Abbas along with the caption: “We’re proud of you!” on its official Facebook page.

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