Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Abbas calls Hamas `murderous terrorists'

STRONG WORDS The Palestinian president accused Hamas of trying to set up its own state in Gaza and claimed the organization had attempted to assassinate him

AGENCIES , RAMALLAH, WEST BANK

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, addressing his people on TV on Wednesday, harshly criticized Hamas for attacking "national symbols" during its takeover of Gaza last week, referring to them as "murderous terrorists."

In an uncharacteristically fiery speech, Abbas said Hamas replaced the "national project" with "its project of darkness," attacking the symbols of government in Gaza, including the house of the late leader Yasser Arafat.

Abbas declared: "There is no dialogue with those murderous terrorists," accusing them of attempting a coup. It was Abbas' toughest speech since he fired the Hamas-led Cabinet and replaced it with his own team of Fatah supporters and experts over the weekend.

"Our main goal is to prevent sedition from spreading to the West Bank ... to prevent violations by any party, and to deal [with everyone] equally, based on law," he said.

Abbas said that despite the turmoil, peace talks with Israel should resume.

He accused Hamas of trying to set up its own state in Gaza alone, a step he said would scuttle Palestinian hopes for independence. He said he had tried to prevent the conflict through "continuous dialogue."

Instead, "we are seeing assassinations of leaders of Palestinian security and Fatah in Gaza," he said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rejected Abbas' statements.

"What he said was disgusting and not appropriate for the Palestinian president," the Hamas official said. "The president has harmed himself with his words."

Last week, in a lighting military-style operation, Hamas militias routed the numerically superior Fatah security forces in Gaza and took over their bases, leaving Abbas' Fatah in control of the West Bank.

"It's a fight between the national project and this small kingdom they want to establish in Gaza, the kingdom of Gaza, between those who are using assassination and killing to achieve their goals, and those who are using the rules of law," Abbas said.

He accused Hamas of trying to assassinate him when he planned a visit to Gaza a month ago, digging a tunnel under a road where his car was to pass and trying to fill it with 250kg of explosives. He said he received videotapes of the operation, showing militants with Hamas signs on their shirts carrying out the work. He dismissed Hamas claims that the explosives tunnel was aimed at Israelis.

Abu Zuhri denied the charge and called Abbas' sending of the tapes to Arab leaders "incitement."

"I have sent these tapes to all the Arab countries, to show how this dark movement is acting," Abbas said.

He repeated his earlier declaration that the Hamas militia in Gaza is now illegal and warned Israel not to take advantage of the Gaza situation to tighten its control of the West Bank.

"The coup seekers through their madness have given a golden opportunity to those who want to separate Gaza from the West Bank," he said.

In related news Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet next week for the first time since Hamas' rout of Fatah in Gaza, Palestinian and Egyptian officials said yesterday.

An Egyptian official said the two men would hold talks at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt together with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah.

Abbas was likely to meet Arab leaders on Sunday and then hold talks with Olmert the following day, an Egyptian diplomat said.

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