Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took Qatar-based Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal to task during their meeting in Doha Thursday, over Hamas plans to launch attacks against the PA in the West Bank, a senior Palestinian source told The Times of Israel.
Mashaal and Abbas had a “difficult” discussion, the source said, in which Abbas castigated Hamas and called its members “liars” over a Shin Bet allegation that captured Hamas operatives had confessed to a plot to attack PA forces in the West Bank and even stage a “coup” there.
Abbas also informed Mashaal that Hamas would have to choose between unity with Abbas’s Fatah movement and a permanent “divorce,” the source said, adding that the information revealed by the Shin Bet in a press release this week was already known to Abbas’s security forces.
Abbas was scheduled to travel to Cairo Friday.
On Friday, Mashaal remained adamant that his groups would not resume ceasefire negotiations with Israel until it is “convinced that there is a real possibility that Israel will agree to their demands, primarily lifting the blockade,” the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
In an interview Thursday, Mashaal defiantly said that Hamas was ready to fight for “many years” and there would be no return to negotiations with Israel until Hamas was in a more favorable position.
Mashaal spoke after Israel assassinated two of his organization’s top commanders, Hamas southern command head Muhammad Abu Shamala and Rafah commander Raed al-Attar, and a third senior member, Mohammed Barhoum, early Thursday morning.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Thursday that Israel would “pay a price” for the assassinations, and the Israel Defense Forces has been on high alert for the possibility of revenge attacks.
The Shin Bet said that Abu Shamala and al-Attar were both directly involved in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was later released in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. One of those prisoners is said to have taken part in the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in June by a West Bank Hamas cell.
Thursday morning’s blow to Hamas’s military leadership marked at least the second high-level assassination attempt by Israel since ceasefire negotiations in Cairo broke down on Tuesday.
Israel was said to have dropped several bunker-busting bombs on a building used by Hamas’s top military commander Muhammad Deif early Wednesday in an apparent assassination attempt that killed five people, including Deif’s wife and two children. Hamas maintained that Deif was not in the house during the bombing, and survived the attack.
However, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi asserted in a radio interview Friday morning that Deif was probably dead.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.