Senior Hamas officials stepped up a war of words with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the weekend, accusing him of “crimes against humanity” over his plans to pressure the terror group to cede control of the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at a Hamas-organized protest in Gaza City against the measures taken by the PA, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of Hamas’s political bureau, called the measures “a crime against humanity.”
“The criminals in the PA, you cut off power to the innocent people of the Strip, so God will cut off power to your hearts,” he added.
On Sunday, Ismail Haniyeh, the former Gaza leader for Hamas who is poised to take over soon as chief of the organization worldwide, called Abbas “delusional.”
Last week, the PA informed Israel it would no longer pay for electricity provided by Israel to Gaza, despite the Strip already facing a crippling power shortage. The PA earlier in April also cut salaries to its employees in the coastal enclave by 30 percent and slashed salaries the PA pays to Gazan families of Palestinian “martyrs” and prisoners.
The Hamas terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007 from the Ramallah-based Fatah organization of Abbas.
Since then, however, the PA has continued to use a large portion of its limited budget to pay for vital infrastructure in the enclave.
Abbas warned earlier in April that he would take “unprecedented” measures aimed at forcing Hamas to either take full responsibility for the territory it governs, or to relinquish control back to the PA.
PA leaders have since warned Ramallah they would take more steps if Hamas did not give in.
The renewed push by the PA to regain a foothold in Gaza comes ahead of Abbas’s meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House later this week. In the lead-up to the Washington confab, Abbas is under pressure to show that he represents all Palestinians, including those in Gaza.
On Sunday, Haniyeh said Hamas had no intention of giving in to Abbas’s demands, but that Hamas was open to continuing dialogue to reconcile differences with Fatah.
However, he added, “whoever thinks he can bring Gaza to its knees is delusional. Because Gaza, its resistance, sacrifices, symbols and martyrs are in the heart of the Palestinian people.”
Currently, the energy shortage in Gaza, caused by the enclave’s only power plant not having any fuel, has left the Strip’s residents with as little as four hours of power a day.
Hamas refuses to buy diesel oil for its only operating power station from the PA, saying that Ramallah is levying too high a tax on the fuel.
The World Bank said on Thursday the power cuts have led to a “humanitarian crisis,” hitting hospitals, clinics, water supply and other vital services, as well as household needs.
It is not clear if Israel will stop supplying power to Gaza, which would lead to a near-complete shutdown of the Strip.
Israel could continue to bill for the electricity it supplies and raise the money from taxes that it collects for the PA.
In 2016, the PA’s overall budget was $4.14 billion, of which the Gaza Strip’s share was $1.65 billion – approximately 40%.
At the same time, Hamas has continued to impose high taxes on Gaza’s residents, while funneling the revenue into its coffers and military wing for weaponry to fight Israel. PA officials have estimated that Hamas has earned over a $1 billion from the taxes it raises.