Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he is adopting a hardline stance against Hamas, saying on Saturday that the terror organization will no longer have the ability to make policy decisions on behalf of the unity government.
Speaking from Cairo, where he is meeting with foreign ministers of the Arab League, Abbas is said to have made fun of Hamas’s efforts to damage Israel over the course of the 50-day conflict with Israel this summer.
Abbas said that launching thousands of rockets at Israel did relatively little damage to the Jewish state, Ynet reported.
On Saturday, Hamas announced that the PA had increased its arrests of members and supporters of the terror group, Israel Radio reported.
According to the report, Hamas media said that over the last ten days, around 40 Hamas men and some 30 others with Hamas affiliation have been rounded up by PA security forces. Those arrested include released prisoners, family of senior members of Hamas, as well as people who took part in pro-Hamas activities such as rallies and expressing support on social media.
Amid reports of heightened tensions between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, Abbas threatened on Sunday that he would suspend all talks with the terror group until they accept his demand that Hamas turn over all control of the Gaza Strip to the unity government.
“We will not accept the situation with Hamas continuing as it is at the moment,” Abbas said in remarks published by the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
“We won’t accept a partnership with them if the situation continues like this in Gaza where there is a shadow government…running the territory. The national consensus government cannot do anything on the ground,” Abbas stated.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar expressed his confidence to the New York Times that the Palestinian people would not hold Hamas responsible for any failed efforts at unity and reconstruction in Gaza.
According to al-Zahar, what happens next in Gaza “is the responsibility of Mahmoud Abbas because now he is responsible for the government.”
“We are not responsible,” he added.
Hamas, who has repeatedly expressed that they would never agree to any peace with Israel, has hindered all recent peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. According to the head of the Arab League, Abbas is ready for “real negotiations” with Israel.
In an interview with the London-based Arabic daily Ashraq al-Awsat, Nabil el-Araby said, “He [Abbas] is open to the importance of the renewal of real negotiations, and if not, then there will be another way to manage the conflict.”
“Real negotiations demand agreement on the principles established in international resolutions, such as the ’67 borders, East Jerusalem, and security for the two sides. When there is agreement on these issues, it will be possible to reach an agreement in a weak, not in a number of months,” he said.
Despite what appear to be Abbas’s willingness to renew peace negotiations with Israel, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh rejected all calls for peace with the Jewish state on Friday. Speaking to a gathering in Gaza City, Haniyeh said that Hamas “cannot accept or deal with any international decision to disarm the resistance.”
Demilitarization of the Gaza Strip has been a main demand by Israel in order to lift the current blockade on the Strip. Haniyeh said that Hamas and other terror groups were “sacred” and vowed that “as long as there is occupation of Palestinians’ land, there will be resistance,” Israel Radio reported.
The Hamas leader added that the most recent conflict “against the Israeli occupation would not be the last.”