Abbas to chair Fatah meeting amid growing tensions with U.S., Hamas

Leaders of the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction are scheduled to meet in Ramallah on Sunday to discuss US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East and various initiatives to improve the economic situation in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will chair the meeting of the Fatah Central Committee, Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the committee, said over the weekend.

Be the first to know –

The meeting comes as PA officials stepped up their rhetorical attacks on Trump’s , dubbing it an attempt to “blackmail” the Palestinians and “liquidate” their cause. Kushner says U.S. peace plan coming soon after Middle East visit, June 24, 2018 (Reuters)

The PA also fears that recent US, Israeli and international efforts to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are aimed at driving a wedge between the Palestinians and establishing a separate Palestinian state in the coastal enclave.

In a speech on behalf of Abbas, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah again condemned Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.

He also condemned as “extortion” the US administration’s threat to cut funding to the PA over payments made to Palestinian security prisoners and their families, as well as the relatives of Palestinian “martyrs.”

The US measures, he added, “increase the gloomy situation in the Palestinian territories.”

Referring to the initiates to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Hamdallah said: “We won’t agree to turn our national rights into humanitarian or financial rights.”

The talk about economic projects to help resolve the crisis in the Gaza Strip, including an Israeli proposal to establish a seaport in Cyprus for shipping goods to the coastal enclave, have further aggravated tensions between Fatah and Hamas.

Some Fatah officials claim that Hamas was willing to accept these projects in return for the partial lifting of sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Sheikh Mohamed Salim, who delivered Friday’s sermon at al-Aqsa Mosque, warned that Trump’s unseen plan was the “greatest conspiracy against Muslims in modern history.”

He also warned Arabs and Muslims from cooperating with the plan, which Trump has called the “deal of the century.”

On the eve of the Fatah leaders’ meeting in Ramallah, Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official and advisor to Abbas, told an Egyptian television station: “The Gaza Strip has been hijacked by Hamas, which rules there against the will of our people. Our people must undermine the rule of Hamas. The PLO factions should also agree on practical steps to undermine the rule of the authority of division [Hamas].”

According to PA officials, Abbas was unhappy with the efforts made by United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov to promote humanitarian and economic projects in the Gaza Strip.

The officials told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that Abbas recently “rebuked” Mladenov for being “in harmony with American schemes.”

Abbas, the report said, reminded Mladenov that as a representative of the UN he must coordinate his work in the Palestinian territories with the PA government.

Abbas and other PA officials fear that Washington and other international parties are trying to bypass the PA leadership in Ramallah by operating directly in the Gaza Strip. They also fear that the US, Israel and other parties are seeking to use the UN as a cover for promoting economic and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has denied the charges that it had agreed to international aid to the Gaza Strip “as part of a US-Israeli conspiracy” to split the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.

“Hamas rejects a [separate] Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and splitting the Gaza Strip from the West Bank,” Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, said in a post on Twitter. Hamas, he added, was also opposed to Trump’s “deal of the century.”

Hamas, he said, “wants a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem as its capital. Hamas wants national reconciliation and political partnership [with Fatah] in order to face the occupation.

Hamas also wants the blockade on the Gaza Strip to be removed and the sanctions lifted. Hamas wants a solution to the problems of the Gaza Strip.”

Abu Marzouk also launched a scathing attack on Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmed over the latter’s call for undermining Hamas.

Fatah spokesperson Osama Qawassmeh retorted by accusing Abu Marzouk of “political adolescence.” He also accused the senior Hamas officials of “whining like children.”

Responding to the Fatah and PA allegations, Ahmed Bahr, a top Hamas official, said on Saturday that any humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will not require a “political price.”

The Palestinians, he said, were entitled to their own seaport and airport and humanitarian aid, “but this will not be in return for giving up any of the rights of our people. We will not pay a political price for this.”

Bahr urged the PA to lift the sanctions it imposed on the Gaza Strip last year, which include among other things, the firing of thousands of civil servants and halting social welfare assistance to hundreds of Palestinian families.

“How can the Palestinian Authority say that it is against the ‘deal of the century’ while it is imposing a siege on the Gaza Strip, cracking down on Hamas supporters through security coordination with the occupation, and suppressing demonstrations calling for lifting the sanctions [on the Gaza Strip]?” he asked.

Meanwhile, Egypt is reported to have resumed its efforts to mediate between Fatah and Hamas. Palestinian sources said that Cairo has invited representatives of several Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for talks on ways of resolving the crisis between the two rival parties. A Hamas delegation headed by Ismail Haniyeh or Yahya Sinwar is expected to head to Cairo in the coming days to meet with senior Egyptian intelligence officers who are acting as mediators to solve the Hamas-Fatah dispute, according to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.