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Egypt Intervenes to Prevent Abbas from Declaring Gaza ‘Rebel Territory’

Egypt Intervenes to Prevent Abbas from Declaring Gaza ‘Rebel Territory’

Thursday, 22 March, 2018 - 09:15
A Palestinian girl drinks water from a public tap in Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip January 24, 2017. (Reuters)

A Palestinian official said that President Mahmoud Abbas intended to declare the Gaza Strip a “rebel territory” if Hamas did not fully hand over the area to the Palestinian government. He noted, however, that Egypt was working hard to prevent such a decision.

A senior source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Egyptians were holding intensive contacts with the Palestinian leadership and Hamas. Egypt pledged to hand over the Gaza Strip to the government in implementation of the reconciliation agreement between the two sides that was signed in Cairo late last year.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “If Hamas does not hand over the Gaza Strip, the president will declare the area a rebellious territory and its government will be considered illegitimate.”

According to the official, “this proposal is old and was discussed several times, but the Palestinian leadership did not adopt it in the hope of establishing unity and saving the Strip.”

“However, after the latest assassination attempt everything changed.”

“The president now gave the mediators a chance. Hamas must seize the opportunity and return to the legitimacy before it is too late,” he warned.

Abbas announced his intention to adopt “national, legal and financial measures” against the Gaza Strip, accusing Hamas of trying to assassinate Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah last week.

Abbas accused Hamas of seeking to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and implement a plot to establish a state there, with many implicit and public assurances that the US also wants this separation to prevent the establishment of a unified Palestinian state.

Hamas has so far refused to hand over the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian government over disagreements over ministers’ empowerment. It has criticized a call for the immediate hand over, while officials in the movement warned that the continuation of the current situation would mean an inevitable clash with Israel.

Hamas spokesman, Abdul Latif al-Qanouh, said: “The reconciliation government’s demand to hand over the Gaza Strip at once confirms the policy of exclusion.”

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