A senior Hamas official on Sunday accused Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas of fomenting violence in the region and pushing Israel toward a new war in the Gaza Strip.
“Abbas wants to control everything in Gaza, war is good for him,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior leader in the Gaza Strip, told Arab media. Al-Zahar is in Cairo as part of a large delegation from Gaza taking part in talks to reach a Palestinian reconciliation deal and a possible long-term truce with Israel.
The talks have been deadlocked in recent months and Hamas blames Abbas who has imposed a series of crippling sanctions on the Strip in a bid to force Hamas to give up control. The terror group has ruled Gaza since it ousted Abbas’s rival Fatah faction in 2007.
Al-Zahar charged that the PA, together with several unnamed Arab states, were trying to persuade Israel to launch a wide-scale campaign in Gaza.
Recent days have seen a fresh upsurge in violence and al-Zahar said the border violence would not subside until they achieved their goals.
“The Marches of Return will not end, no matter how much pressure they put on us,” he said.
Firefighters on Sunday worked to extinguish two blazes in southern Israel sparked by airborne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip and police sappers defused another fire balloon on a highway, as a weekend of violent border clashes was followed by relative quiet.
Since Sunday morning, firefighters have combated two fires caused by incendiary balloons near Israeli towns along the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services said.
The Hamas delegation, reportedly lead by Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri, arrived in Cairo on Saturday. The Gaza officials were scheduled to meet with Egyptian intelligence officials throughout the day for deliberations.
Meanwhile, a top Hamas official on Saturday warned Abbas against imposing additional “sanctions” on the coastal territory.
Kahlil al-Hayya, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau, told Gaza newspaper Felesteen that the ruling terrorist group would respond with a “free hand” against any additional measures imposed by the rival Ramallah government headed by Abbas.
Hayya did not elaborate what the response from Hamas might entail, but stressed that Abbas needed to take full responsibility for Gaza.
The remarks came in response to Abbas’s speech to the UN General Assembly earlier this week in which he threatened to “give up responsibility” for Gaza if Hamas refused to respond positively to Egyptian efforts to broker a reconciliation deal between the rival Palestinian factions.
Abbas has slashed funding to Gaza and cut salaries of PA employees there to pressure Hamas into handing over the territory, making it increasingly difficult for Hamas to govern. Hamas fears Abbas may reduce funding for health care and other services for Gazans.
Further cuts to Gaza’s budget are seen as a move that could worsen the Strip’s already dire humanitarian situation and deepen a rift between the rival groups.
During his speech on Thursday, Abbas indicated he would cut the remaining PA budgets allocated for Gaza if Hamas refused to hand over control of the coastal territory.
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