Tuesday 22 August 2017

Mahmoud Abbas will not win loyalty by force, says Hamas

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is considering further wage and subsidy cuts for Gaza
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is considering further wage and subsidy cuts for Gaza

Gaza's ruling Hamas movement has said it will not be cowed by threatened funding cuts, signalling escalating tensions between the militant group and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Abbas has threatened to take "unprecedented" financial steps to force Hamas to cede control in Gaza, a territory it seized from him in 2007.

Reconciliation attempts between rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza have failed.

Khalil al-Haya, the second highest ranking Hamas leader in Gaza, said Mr Abbas will fail "if he tries to make Gaza kneel or expects to win our loyalty by force".

He spoke as Mr Abbas convened advisers to consider further wage and subsidy cuts for Gaza.

Mr Abbas meets US President Donald Trump next week and is likely to be asked if he speaks for all Palestinians.

Gaza, a tiny territory of 2 million people on the Mediterranean, has suffered through increasing hardship since the Hamas takeover, which triggered a border blockade by neighbouring Israel and Egypt. In recent years, Gazans have endured rolling power cuts, with electricity now available for only six hours a day.

Mr al-Haya warned further pressure on Gaza would backfire.

"You can't punish the one who lives in tough conditions," Mr al-Haya said. "Gaza is an explosive barrel and he (Abbas) cannot press this barrel more. If he does, it's going to explode in his face and in all directions."

Mr al-Haya also said Hamas plans to unveil its new political programme on Monday.

The manifesto is seen as an attempt by the internationally isolated Hamas to improve ties with Egypt and the West, and to present a more moderate image that will help it get off Western terrorism lists.

"It represents a development in Hamas' political ideology," said Mr al-Haya. "We say clearly that the conflict is not a religious one, that there is no enmity toward Jews as Jews but that we are fighting the occupation."

In the programme, Hamas characterises itself as a Palestinian resistance movement against Israeli occupation, dropping references to holy war against Jews.

It also raises the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. It does not say whether this would be a stepping stone to an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, including Israel.

The document plays down ties to Hamas' parent movement, the regional Muslim Brotherhood, which is being targeted by Egypt's government as a terror organisation.

AP

Press Association

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