PA won’t be responsible for Gaza if Hamas stays in charge, Abbas warns
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PA won’t be responsible for Gaza if Hamas stays in charge, Abbas warns

'We must be given everything, all institutions and ministries, including security and weapons,' PA president says of any reconciliation deal with Strip's terrorist rulers

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

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)
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)

The Palestinian Authority will no longer be responsible for what happens in the Gaza Strip if Hamas refuses to hand over full control of the coastal enclave to the PA government, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday.

Abbas told Fatah leaders in Ramallah that this was the message he relayed to Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel during their meeting last week. The top Egyptian official headed a high-level delegation of security officials who met with Abbas in his office in Ramallah to discuss the faltering “reconciliation” deal between the ruling Fatah faction and Hamas.

Abbas said he was waiting for a reply from Egypt regarding his demand that Hamas allow the PA government to assume full responsibility over the Gaza Strip. He said that he made it clear to the Egyptian officials that Hamas must also allow the PA government to assume its security responsibilities in the Gaza Strip.

“A few days ago, brothers from Egypt visited us and talked to us about the reconciliation [with Hamas],” Abbas said. “We, of course, thanked Egypt for all its efforts, which began in 2007 and are continuing until this day.”

He was referring to the year Hamas, an Islamist terror group, violently seized control of the Gaza Strip.

“We talked to them at length,” Abbas said of his meeting with the Egyptian intelligence chief and his team. “We told them: We must be given everything [in the Gaza Strip]. Our government must be given everything, all institutions and ministries, including security and weapons.”

Abbas said that if Hamas refuses to comply, “we will not be responsible for what happens there. We are now waiting for a reply from Egypt, and when it arrives we will talk and take action.”

Abbas did not say what kind of action he was planning to take. However, in recent weeks, he has threatened “legal, financial, and national” measures against Hamas, following the assassination attempt on the life of his prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, in the northern Gaza Strip last month.

Last year, Abbas imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip in a bid to force Hamas to dismantle its shadow government, or “administrative committee,” there.

Referring to the upcoming Arab summit, slated to take place in Saudi Arabia on April 15, Abbas told the Fatah leaders that he was hoping that the Arab heads of state would support the Palestinians in their standoff with the US administration.

“In a few days, we will be going to the Arab summit, and we hope that this summit will be called the Jerusalem Summit,” Abbas said. “It is being held at a time when Jerusalem is facing a fierce onslaught after the decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Renewing his opposition to US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, Abbas said: “We heard that they [the Americans] said that Jerusalem and refugees have been removed from the negotiating table. So the question is, what’s left on the table? We believe that the deal is finished and read.”

Trump has referred to his plan as the “deal of the century.” The Palestinians have repeatedly rejected the plan, although it has not been made public yet, saying it was aimed at “liquidating the Palestinian cause and rights.”

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