Palestinian president Abbas says may end unity with Hamas over Gaza governance

A file picture taken on June 19, 2014 in the West Bank city of Ramallah shows Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas giving a statement. -- PHOTO: AFP
A file picture taken on June 19, 2014 in the West Bank city of Ramallah shows Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas giving a statement. -- PHOTO: AFP

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has threatened to break off a unity agreement with Hamas if the Islamist movement does not allow the government to operate properly in the Gaza Strip.

His remarks came on the eve of talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and a key address to the Arab League nearly two weeks after a ceasefire ended a major 50-day confrontation with Israel in Gaza.  

“We will not accept the situation with Hamas continuing as it is at the moment,” Mr Abbas said on arrival in the Egyptian capital late Saturday, in remarks published by official Palestinian news agency WAFA.  

“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,” he said. “The national consensus government cannot do anything on the ground,” he charged.  

But Hamas denounced his allegations as “baseless”.

“Abbas’s statements against Hamas and the resistance are unjustified,” spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement. “It is untrue, baseless and unfair to our people,” he said, indicating that Hamas representatives would meet “soon” with their counterparts in the rival Fatah movement to discuss fleshing out the reconciliation deal which was inked in April.  

Under the terms of the agreement, the Palestinians agreed to form an interim consensus government of technocrats, ending seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.  

The unity deal sought to end years of bitter and sometimes bloody rivalry between the Islamist Hamas movement and its Fatah rivals who dominate the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.  

The new Cabinet, which is based in Ramallah, took office on June 2, with Gaza’s Hamas government officially stepping down the same day.  Despite the handover, Hamas has remained the de facto power in Gaza, with moves to implement the provisions of the unity agreement put on hold in the face of the deadly offensive which Israel launched on July 8.