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Abbas vows to protect West Bank from Hamas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas harshly criticized the Islamic Hamas on Wednesday for taking over Gaza last week, saying its members were “murderous terrorists” who tried to assassinate him recently.
Abbas Holds Central Council Of Fatah Movement Meeting
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to Fatah supporters Wednesday in Ramallah, West Bank.Palestinian Press Office via Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas harshly criticized the Islamic Hamas on Wednesday for taking over Gaza last week, saying its members were “murderous terrorists” who tried to assassinate him recently.

In an uncharacteristically fiery televised speech, Abbas said Hamas replaced the “national project” with “its project of darkness,” attacking the symbols of government in Gaza, including the house of the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

“There is no dialogue with those murderous terrorists,” Abbas said, accusing them of attempting a coup. It was Abbas’ toughest speech since he fired the Hamas-led Cabinet and replaced it with his own team of Fatah supporters and experts over the weekend.

“Our main goal is to prevent sedition from spreading to the West Bank, ... to prevent violations by any party, and to deal (with everyone) equally, based on law,” he said.

Abbas said that despite the turmoil, peace talks with Israel should resume.

“The atmosphere is not preventing a start to negotiations,” he said, adding that he hoped the international community, including the Quartet of Mideast mediators, would convene an international peace conference that can lead to negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.

Hamas denial
Abbas accused Hamas of trying to set up its own state in Gaza alone, a step he said would scuttle Palestinian hopes for independence. He said he had tried to prevent the conflict through “continuous dialogue.” Instead, “we are seeing assassination of leaders of Palestinian security and Fatah in Gaza.”

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri hotly rejected Abbas’ statements.

“What he said was disgusting and not appropriate for the Palestinian president,” the Hamas official said. “The president has harmed himself with his words.”

In a lightning military-style operation last week, Hamas militias routed the numerically superior Fatah security forces and took over their bases, leaving Abbas’ Fatah in control only of the West Bank.

Abbas said the conflict continues.

“It’s a fight between the national project and this small kingdom they want to establish in Gaza, the kingdom of Gaza, between those who are using assassination and killing to achieve their goals, and those who are using the rules of law,” he said.

Video evidence?
Abbas accused Hamas of trying to assassinate him when he planned a visit to Gaza a month ago, digging a tunnel under a road where his car was to pass and trying to fill it with more than 550 pounds of explosives. He said he received videotapes of the operation, showing militants with Hamas signs on their shirts carrying out the work. He dismissed Hamas claims that the explosives tunnel was aimed at Israelis.“I have sent these tapes to all the Arab countries, to show how much this dark movement is acting,” he said.

Abu Zuhri denied the charge and called Abbas’ sending of the tapes to Arab leaders “incitement.”

Abbas repeated his earlier declaration that the Hamas militia in Gaza is now illegal and warned Israel not to take advantage of the Gaza situation to tighten its control of the West Bank.

“The coup-seekers, through their madness, have given a golden opportunity to those who want to separate Gaza from the West Bank,” he said.

Abbas appealed to the Palestine National Council, a PLO body, to give his new government its support. He issued a weekend decree that canceled the parliament’s power to approve or disapprove a Cabinet. The parliament is dominated by Hamas, which won a January 2006 election over Fatah.

The Palestine National Council has not met since 2004. Abbas is the leader of the PLO.