Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that “things will be painful” for political rival Hamas, referring to recent financial steps he has taken to pressure the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip, which Israel considers a terror group.
Abbas spoke in a meeting with Arab ambassadors late Thursday before leaving Washington where he had met with US President Donald Trump earlier in the week about resuming peace talks with Israel.
Hamas, which violently seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, has dismissed his strategy of negotiations as a waste of time.
Abbas recently warned he would cut salaries, aid and subsidies to Gaza to force Hamas to cede ground. Earlier this week, his West Bank-based government announced it will stop paying for electricity Israel sends to power-starved Gaza.
Hamas responded that it would not bow to pressure from Abbas.
On Wednesday, a Palestinian Authority official warned that the PA government will stop paying for electricity in the Gaza Strip and will “dry up” the flow of funds to Hamas.
Hamas accused the Abbas government of irresponsible behavior and warned that the announced cuts would be disastrous for Gaza’s two million residents.
Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the PA’s Civil Affairs Department, said Hamas profits from collecting electricity payments from Gaza residents. “We are not going to continue financing the Hamas coup in Gaza,” he told the Voice of Palestine radio station.
Al-Sheikh said the aim was to “dry up Hamas’s financial resources.” He said efforts would be made not to harm services to Gaza residents, but did not explain how that would be possible.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum accused Abbas of siding with Israel in trying to punish Hamas.
“Today, Abbas put himself in a confrontation with the Palestinian people,” Barhoum said. “Its consequences will be catastrophic and disastrous, not only for Hamas, as they think, but for all Gazans.”
Gaza residents have been enduring worsening power cuts — a result of border blockades by Israel and Egypt that were triggered by the Hamas takeover of the Palestinian enclave. Residents currently live with rolling blackouts — six hours on, 12 hours off — that have further crippled an economy devastated by conflict.
Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep weapons and other materiel from reaching the hands of Hamas and other terror groups.
Israel supplies electricity from 10 power lines that cover about 30 percent of Gaza’s needs and it deducts the money from the taxes and customs it collects on behalf of the Abbas government. Egypt provides some electricity, but supplies are less reliable.
Israel last week first announced the Abbas government’s intention to stop paying for Gaza electricity. Al-Sheikh’s comments marked the first official Palestinian confirmation.
Ahmed Majdalani, an Abbas aide, said that as a next step, the West Bank government would sharply reduce the amount of medicine it ships to Gaza every month. Majdalani alleged that Hamas is “selling the medicine and collecting the money.”
He said that only “necessary medicine” would be sent directly to Gaza hospitals.