Abbas increases pressure on Hamas for Gaza handover


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is demanding that Hamas hand over the apparatus of government in Gaza, including security, to his Ramallah-based administration.

Abbas gave Hamas 60 days to make the change or the territory would be declared a rebellious zone, Arab media reported. That would mean that Abbas’ government based in the West Bank would not feel any direct responsibility for the affairs of nearly two million Palestinians besieged in Gaza.

Under a reconciliation agreement signed in October to resolve years of conflict between the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas was meant to hand over control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority by December, but the deal has broken down.

Dalal Salameh, a member of the central committee of Fatah, the party of President Abbas which dominates the PA, denied that a deadline had been set but told Arab News that the Fatah committee approved the need for decisive action in Gaza.

“We agreed that Hamas needs to turn over all powers and not half powers to Prime Minister (Rami) Hamdallah’s government,” he said. “We are waiting for answers from Egyptian mediators as to our demand for full solutions and not partial ones.”

Sources in Gaza told Arab News that the decision to increase pressure on Hamas might be the result of calculations that Hamas is weak and vulnerable.

Payment of salaries to public servants, which was delayed in the first ten days of April, was finally made but only to West Bank government workers — thus increasing the financial pressure on people in Gaza.

Arab News has learned that a committee has been established in Ramallah, headed by the director general of the Public Service Department, to study the cost of retiring all government employees who are being paid but have not worked since Hamas seized Gaza more than a decade ago.

Egypt is reported to be unhappy with the escalation from Ramallah, preferring a more gradual process of transition rather than a drastic single transfer that Abbas is trying to foist on Hamas.

Egypt hopes that the key issue of who controls security could be solved by creating a professional force that is not partisan to any political faction.

The protests in Gaza, which have been met with deadly force by the Israeli military, are also a factor in how Abbas moves forward. The protests are expected to climax on the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) from the founding of Israel that sparked the refugee crisis.

Sources in Ramallah told Arab News that the idea of giving Hamas 60 days is meant to allow for several key events in the region to pass, which may prove pivotal to the future of Gaza. The Arab League summit will take place in Dammam next week, the Palestine National Council is scheduled for the end of the month and the US embassy is scheduled to move to Jerusalem on May 14.

Hamas, which is not behind the nonviolent protests, despite Israeli claims to the contrary, is hoping to convince the Palestinian Liberation Organization to work together on the idea of peaceful protests which both sides support.

An idea of calling the next round of protests “Molotov Friday” was nixed by the head of the Hamas politburo, who argued in a speech in Gaza about the importance of keeping the demonstrations non-violent.

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