Hamas slams Mahmoud Abbas’s ‘unilateral’ designation of new PM

Appointment of loyalist Mohammad Mustafa ‘deepens division,’ says terror group, as struggle for post-war hegemony in Gaza complicates rapprochement efforts with Abbas’s Fatah

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) with Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Mustafa in Ramallah on March 14, 2024. (Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) with Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Mustafa in Ramallah on March 14, 2024. (Wafa)

CAIRO, Egypt — Palestinian terror group Hamas on Friday criticized the “unilateral” designation by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of an ally and leading business figure as prime minister with a mandate to help reform the PA and rebuild Gaza.

Mohammad Mustafa’s appointment comes after mounting international pressure to overhaul the Palestinian governing body of the West Bank.

Hamas said the decision was taken without consulting it despite recently taking part in a meeting in Moscow also attended by Abbas’s Fatah movement to end long-time divisions.

“We express our rejection of continuing this approach that has inflicted and continues to inflict harm on our people and our national cause,” Hamas said in a statement.

“Making individual decisions and engaging in superficial and empty steps such as forming a new government without national consensus only reinforces a policy of unilateralism and deepens division.”

At a time of war with Israel, Palestinians need a unified leadership preparing for free democratic elections involving all components of their society, it added.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh holds a cabinet meeting during which he announced his government’s resignation and called for ‘new political measures’ in Ramallah, February 26, 2024. (Zain JAAFAR / AFP)

The war in Gaza began with an attack on southern Israel by Hamas terrorists who killed 1,200 people and seized 253 hostages on October 7.

Israel’s response has since driven much of the 2.3 million population of Gaza from their homes while famine overtakes the coastal enclave.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 31,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 13,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

Illustrative: Palestinians perform the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan near the ruins of a mosque destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, Gaza Strip, March 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

As president, Abbas remains by far the most powerful figure in the Palestinian Authority, but the appointment of a new government showed some willingness to meet international demands for change in the administration.

Mustafa, who helped organize the reconstruction of Gaza following a previous conflict, was assigned to lead the relief and rebuilding of the area, which has been shattered by more than five months of war, and reform Palestinian Authority institutions, according to the designation letter.

He replaces former prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh who, along with his government, resigned in February.

This handout picture provided by the Palestinian Authority’s Press Office (PPO) shows PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (L) presenting the resignation of his government to Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah on February 26, 2024. (Thaer GHANEM / PPO / AFP)

Arab and international efforts have so far failed to reconcile Hamas and Fatah, which makes the backbone of the PA, since the Hamas 2007 takeover of Gaza, a move that reduced Abbas’s authority to the West Bank, which Israel controls.

Palestinians want both territories as the core of a future independent state.

Hamas said any attempt to exclude it from the political scene after the war was “delusional.”

In a recent warning, a security official told a Hamas-linked news website that attempts by clans or community leaders to cooperate with Israel’s plans to administer Gaza would be seen as “treason” and met with an “iron fist.”

But the group denied media reports it killed some local clan leaders in recent days for meddling with aid distribution.

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