Abbas talks tough to the US and Hamas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he would take legal measures against Hamas after last week’s assassination attempt on Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Abbas talks tough to the US and Hamas

AMMAN: Mahmoud Abbas’s verbal attack against Washington and Hamas in a 14-minute speech on Monday night seemed aimed at self-preservation and securing his legacy.
The Palestinian Authority president upped the ante with Washington, accusing it of shedding “crocodile tears” over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and he called the US ambassador to Israel a “son of a dog.”
But the president, who will be 83 on March 26, has little to lose as he will start to hand power to a new generation at a meeting of the Palestine National Council on April 30.
Abbas said he would take “national, legal and financial measures” against Hamas after last week’s assassination attempt on Rami Hamdallah, his prime minister and head of Palestinian intelligence. He blamed the bomb attack on Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and remains bitterly divided from Abbas’s Fatah movement.
Mohammad Laham, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council from Bethlehem, told Arab News it had become clear that Hamas was involved soon after the attack.
“The visit to Gaza was only known 24 hours earlier and the size of the explosives (30 kg) as well as the choice of the location of the attack, all point that those behind it are not a peripheral group, but a group that is well connected and knowledgeable,” he said.
Abbas’s speech sent a message to the US, which had recently held a meeting in Washington about the humanitarian needs of Gaza. In that meeting, Jason Greenblatt, US envoy to the Middle East, told attendees to “park their politics outside” when discussing Gaza, which is under a long-standing Israeli blockade.
“Unfortunately, we cannot ‘leave politics at the door’ because the crisis in Gaza is a result of right-wing extremist Israeli policies seeping into the rhetoric of the international community,” Dr. Saeb Erekat, PLO secretary general, wrote last week in Newsweek.
The Palestinian president knows that the White House meeting on Gaza was held because Israel is worried about a total collapse in Gaza, as the US plans to cut off millions of dollars in aid to the United Nations Agency Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
It seems that by adding to the pressure on Hamas, the Palestinian leader is hoping for either a capitulation of the Islamic movement or for intervention by Egypt, Israel or a combination of forces in which Ramallah would be eventually called on to keep the peace in Gaza. He appears to be applying the well-known Arab proverb “it needs to get bigger before it gets smaller.”
Abbas may be thinking in terms of his reputation and legacy — many Palestinians feel that he has wasted years trying to appease Israel and the US in search of a compromise.
By attacking Washington, he has thrown the dice, but how will he deal with the chaos that will engulf the Strip if external powers decide not to intervene?


New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

Updated 48 min 45 sec ago
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New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

GAZA CITY: Two Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israel were pronounced dead Monday, a Gaza official said, bringing the toll from Israeli fire since March 30 to 40.
A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled territory’s health ministry named the latest fatalities as Tahrir Wahba, 18, and Abdullah Shamali, 20.
Wahba, who was deaf, was shot in the head in a clash east of Khan Yunis on April 6, and Shamali died of “bullet wounds to his belly” sustained on Friday, said spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra.
Most of the 40 Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30 were shot by snipers on the border, while a few others were killed by Israeli artillery or air strikes.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the coastal enclave, wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, have gathered at the border on consecutive Fridays to call for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel.
Some protesters have launched stones or burning tires at Israeli soldiers.
Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, wounding hundreds in addition to those killed.
The Israeli army says its troops only opened fire in self-defense or to stop protesters attempting to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel.
More than 440 demonstrators suffered bullet wounds or gas inhalation on Friday, rescuers said.
Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the United Nations or the European Union.
Israel has for more than a decade imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, fighting three wars with Hamas since 2008.
Also on Monday, Hamas’s military wing said one of its men died in an explosion.
It said in a statement that Mohammed Al-Maqadma, 55, was killed by an “explosive projectile” fired by an unnamed group which it described as hostile to Hamas.
It did not elaborate further.
The Gaza health ministry said a child was wounded in the same blast, in the northern part of the strip.