updated 10/12/2007 5:41:32 PM ET 2007-10-12T21:41:32

Hamas’ top leaders in Gaza and Syria warned the moderate Palestinian president Friday not to “fall into the trap” of an upcoming U.S.-sponsored peace conference with Israel.

Ismail Haniyeh, who was deposed as Palestinian prime minister after Hamas violently seized Gaza in June, urged President Mahmoud Abbas to mend his rift with the Islamic militant group and criticized him for planning to attend the peace conference next month.

“Don’t fall into the trap of the coming conference. Don’t make new compromises on Jerusalem, on our sovereignty,” Haniyeh said, speaking to thousands of cheering supporters for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Hamas’ Syria-based supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal, echoed the warning in his own holiday message, accusing Israel and the U.S. of taking advantage of the Palestinian rift to try to wrest concessions in peace negotiations.

Abbas retaliated for Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip by expelling the group from his government and setting up his own administration in the West Bank. Mashaal urged Abbas to accept the Islamists’ invitations for dialogue.

Abbas and his allies “will find out that they are pursuing nothing but a mirage,” Mashaal said on Hamas radio.

Palestinian official: Peace deal near
Israel and the Palestinians hope to present the contours of a final peace accord at the conference, tentatively set for Annapolis, Md., at the end of November.

Israel has been pressing for a vaguely worded document that would gloss over the toughest issues — borders, control over disputed Jerusalem and a solution for Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in the 1948 war that followed Israel’s creation.

Palestinians prefer a detailed preliminary agreement with a timetable for creating a Palestinian state.

But Thursday, a key Palestinian negotiator said agreement on peace was near, adding that he doubted the U.S. would convene the conference if the two sides did not agree in advance on outlines for an accord.

“We have never been closer to achieving the end game than we are now,” negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 TV, Erekat discounted Hamas’ ability to sabotage a peace accord. He acknowledged that Abbas’ Fatah movement was not strong enough to retake Gaza by force, but insisted “once you produce an end game agreement, Hamas is down without firing a shot.”

Although Abbas says he has authority over Gaza, in practice he has little influence there.

A hero's welcome
Haniyeh, who now heads the Hamas government in Gaza, received a hero’s welcome from the crowd when he arrived at the Palestine Stadium in Gaza City with around 20 black-uniformed bodyguards for festive prayers.

He told supporters that Abbas could not negotiate without Hamas’ support.

“Don’t go to conference when you don’t have the power card in your pocket — and the power card is Hamas,” Haniyeh told his supporters.

Gaza’s international isolation, empty shelves and bitter internal rivalries cast a pall over the Eid al-Fitr holiday — meant to be one of the happiest dates on the Muslim calendar.

Israel has barred the entrance of all goods to the territory except humanitarian aid, and Western governments have imposed a financial boycott.

Deepening the misery are ongoing clashes between the Israeli military and Gaza militants who fire rockets almost daily into Israel.

Because tensions between members of Hamas and Fatah in Gaza remain high, Hamas security forces were deployed in the streets to keep order during the holiday.

Even Friday’s prayers were divided along factional lines, with separate locations for supporters of Gaza’s Hamas rulers and their rivals from Abbas’ Fatah.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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