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December 1, 2014 6:28 pm

Tensions Between Hamas and Fatah Rise as Dispute Over Unity Government Continues

avatar by Ben Cohen

PA President Mahmoud Abbas with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Photo: Twitter

A leading official of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement has challenged a claim by Hamas that the unity government formed between the two factions in April has expired, claiming that there was never any agreement that the unity government would last only six months.

Faisal Abu Shahla said that the unity government was assigned to carry out a number of tasks, including holding elections, “within at least six months,” but that it was never agreed that the government term would end if it did not complete those tasks within that time frame.

“If the Hamas movement has retracted the reconciliation agreement and the termination of rivalry, that is a different case,” Abu Shahla said, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the six-month mandate of the national consensus government had ended.

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Any decision on whether the government should be disbanded or continued or be reshuffled must be made only through national dialogue and consensus, Abu Zuhri said.

Hamas “isn’t interested in incitement, but rather seeks to maintain national unity,” he said.

The Ma’an report also observed that “the Hamas movement has repeatedly condemned and denied responsibility for bomb attacks on Nov. 7, which damaged Fatah members vehicles and houses in Gaza but caused no injuries. It also shirked responsibility for the cancellation of a ceremony planned in Gaza to commemorate the 10th anniversary of [PLO Leader Yasser] Arafat’s death. The movement said it could not provide security forces for the Arafat commemoration given that the PA had not paid Gaza security officers for months in the wake of the unity deal.”

Tensions between Hamas and Fatah, who fought a vicious civil war in Gaza in 2007, have not been eased by the unity government. Over the last fortnight, dozens of Hamas supporters in the West Bank have been arrested following accusations of a plot organized from Turkey to destabilize the PA. In one incident, 30 mainly Hamas operatives were arrested in a period of 72 hours on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks against Israel.

Towards the end of the war in Gaza over the summer, Abbas met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Doha, under the auspices of Qatar, the main financial backer of the Islamist terror organization. The meeting was said to be extremely tense, with Abbas, citing Israeli sources, accusing Mashaal of organizing a coup against him. When Mashaal denied the claim, Abbas replied  – according to a report in the Beirut-based, pro-Iranian Al Akhbar newspaper, which said it had obtained a transcript of the meeting – “I believe Israel’s reports.”

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