Gazans burn Abbas effigy as Hamas simmers over bombing blame

Gazans burn Abbas effigy as Hamas simmers over bombing blame

Protesters rally against Palestinian leader for saying terror group behind assassination attempt of prime minister; Ramallah demonstration calls for US diplomats to be expelled

Palestinians in Gaza held an angry protest against leader Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday, as a rift between the Strip’s Hamas rulers and the Palestinian Authority appeared to widen.

Burning an effigy of the Palestinian Authority president and holding aloft signs criticizing Abbas over cooperation with Israel, dozens of Hamas protesters rallied in Gaza City during the afternoon.

The protest was in reaction to a speech by Abbas Monday in which he blamed Hamas for the bombing of a convoy carrying PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and security chief Majid Faraj last week. Both were uninjured in the apparent assassination attempt.

Palestinians burn a dummy representing Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during a protest in Gaza City on March 21, 2018. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

“Abbas does not represent us,” some protesters chanted. Others held signs reading “Abbas leave!”

Palestinians take part in a protest in Gaza City on March 21, 2018 against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The writing in Arabic reads: “Abbas leave!”

On Wednesday, Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, named Anas abu Koussa, born in 1993, as the lead suspect in the bomb attack. He remains at large.

A Hamas security source said investigators had arrested and were questioning three other people, including two members of the PA-run intelligence services.

Earlier Wednesday, Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel that some of the detainees had confessed their involvement in the bombing attack and that Hamas claims they are members of the extremist terror group Salafia Jihadia.

A vehicle damaged in the explosion that went off near Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy is seen in the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun on March 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Hamas has denied any responsibility for the March 13 bombing, which injured six people and damaged an already moribund unity effort between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah movement, which controls the PA.

During his speech to Fatah leaders Monday, Abbas accused Hamas of having planned and carried out the bombing to sabotage the reconciliation process.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sits in front of a picture of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 19, 2018. (FLASH90)

Abbas announced that he had decided to take “legal, national and financial measures” against Hamas to “protect the Palestinian national project.” He did not provide further details.

Last year, Abbas imposed a series of measures against the Gaza Strip that included suspending Palestinian Authority payments to Israel for electricity supplies to the coastal enclave. Abbas also cut off salaries to thousands of Gaza’s civil servants and forced many others into early retirement. The moves have been blamed for helping put the Strip in a dire humanitarian crisis.

On Tuesday, Hamas slammed Abbas’s, saying that his “irresponsible statements” were aimed at “bringing our people in the Gaza Strip to their knees at this difficult and dangerous phase.”

Call to expel US diplomats

In Ramallah, Palestinian demonstrators rallied outside an outpost of the US consulate to protest the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.

Protesters outside the America House, an education and culture annex of the consulate, called for US diplomats to be expelled and diplomatic ties with Washington cut, according to the Turkish Anadolu news agency.

“We are here today to voice our rejection of the US decision on occupied Jerusalem,” Essam Abu Baker, coordinator of the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces in Ramallah, told the news service. “We will not abandon our demand that U.S. institutions be expelled from Palestine.”

The December 6 move by US President Donald Trump has angered Palestinians, who say Washington can no longer be a peace broker.

During the same speech Monday, Abbas railed against the US, calling Ambassador David Friedman a “son of a dog” and a “settler.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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