Dahlan confidant says Abbas pushing Hamas toward war

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is pushing Hamas toward a war with Israel, according to Sufian Abu Zaida, a close associate of self-exiled Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan. “If Abu Mazen’s [Abbas’s] pressure on Gaza continues with Israel’s participation, Hamas will not just accept it,” Abu Zaida, a former PA prisoner affairs and civil affairs minister, said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post. “Hamas will decide that it has no choice but to have another confrontation with Israel.”Over the past two months, Abbas has undertaken a series of measures to pressure Hamas to concede control of the Gaza Strip – slashing the salaries of PA employees in Gaza, reducing electricity supplied to the area (with Israel’s help) and cutting medical budgets. Abu Zaida is not alone in saying Abbas’s moves could lead to another round of combat.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Herzliya Conference last month that the PA president is aiming “to pull Israel into a war with Hamas.” Gaza, which has witnessed three wars in the past 10 years, is still suffering from the damage caused by Operation Protective Edge in 2014. According to the latest UN report, tens of thousands of homes that were destroyed in that conflict have still not been rebuilt. Abu Zaida said, however, that Egypt, Hamas and Dahlan are working together to improve the situation in Gaza and. “That’s our mission. We are trying to prevent a war,” the former PA minister said. Egyptian authorities, Hamas Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar and Dahlan met in Cairo in early June where they discussed the situation in the Gaza Strip. According to Abu Zaida, the parties agreed that Egypt would continuously supply Gaza with diesel fuel to alleviate the electricity crisis. The first delivery of one million liters took place on June 21. Gaza is now receiving approximately six hours of electricity daily, up from three to four before the fuel shipments. Abu Zaida added that Egypt, Hamas and Dahlan also are working on the possibility of reopening the Rafah crossing between Sinai and the Strip, which largely has been closed since Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was ousted in 2013. The border crossing could be opened after Egypt finishes renovating it in late August and if Cairo and Hamas cooperate effectively on security matters, he said. “I think Hamas is now managing security in a way that has more or less satisfied the Egyptians,” Abu Zaida said. Hamas on Wednesday started work on a buffer zone along its border with Sinai to enhance security. Cairo wants to stop Islamic State fighters who are battling the Egyptian Army in Sinai from seeking refuge and arms in Gaza. Abu Zaida also denied reports that Dahlan will return to the Strip to take over most government ministries while leaving security under Hamas’s purview. Dahlan, who has a strong relationship with many Arab states, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, has long sought an avenue to return to the Palestinian political scene since fleeing the West Bank in 2011 amid corruption allegations. He tried to make a return to the West Bank in 2016 with the help of Arab states, but Abbas rebuffed the effort. “I hope that he comes soon, but he will not be coming in the near future because the time is not right yet,” said Abu Zaida. Dahlan has not visited Gaza since Hamas ousted the PA there in 2007.

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