In a sharply worded attack on Hamas Saturday, Abbas threatened to break off the unity agreement over the group’s de facto control of the Gaza Strip.
Abbas’ words sparked an angry response from Hamas, with spokesman Fawzi Barhoum accusing him in turn of trying “to destroy the reconciliation and play into the hands of the Americans and the Israelis.”
Hamas took over the running of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after winning elections in the enclave and then ousting forces loyal to Abbas and sparking a bitter and bloody split with his Fatah movement, which continued until the two sides signed a reconciliation deal in April this year.
The deal led to the formation of a government of national consensus, which took office on June 2. But after just over a month in office, everything was put on hold as Israel launched a 50-day assault on Hamas in Gaza.
Throughout the conflict, Hamas and Fatah put up a united front, working side-by-side in indirect truce talks with Israel in Cairo, which resulted in an open-ended cease-fire that took effect on Aug. 26.
But any illusion of harmony has quickly evaporated.
“ Hamas has taken us back to square one, to the days of division,” a Fatah official based in Gaza told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Gaza-based political analyst Talal Awkel said: “We’re now seeing a war of words and mutual accusations being exchanged between Fatah and Hamas.”
The latest faceoff has likely scuppered elections that were supposed to take place by year’s end, under the terms of the April agreement.
In a statement last week, Fatah accused Hamas of placing 300 of its members in Gaza under house arrest during the seven-week conflict, and wounding dozens who dared challenge it.
It also accused Hamas of “stealing” aid bound for Gazans in order to “distribute it to its supporters or sell it on the black market.”
Hamas dismissed the statement as a smear campaign organized by a movement whose popularity in the West Bank has slumped since the war.
A recent opinion poll found that if a presidential election were held now, Hamas’ former premier Ismail Haniyeh would easily win, taking 61 percent of the votes compared with 32 percent for Abbas.
During the fighting, Hamas was seen as the only Palestinian force willing to stand up to Israel, squaring up to its military might and firing rockets on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
In order to redress the balance, Abbas is hoping to secure a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to the Israeli occupation within three years.
Arab foreign ministers said Monday they will back Abbas’s appeal. The Palestinian ambassador to Egypt, Jamal al-Shobaki, said that the Arab resolution issued a day earlier calls for the Arab League chief to push the idea in the U.N. Security Council and other regional and international groups.
Israel strongly opposes Palestinian attempts to pursue independence at the United Nations.
Shobaki said the appeal to the U.N. is in line with other international resolutions in regards to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the recognition of 1967 borders as basis for negotiations.
He said that an American veto is a possibility in the council. With Israel opposed to the withdrawal to its pre-1967 lines, it will likely seek U.S. help in thwarting the bid. “This is a political battle,” he told the Associated Press. He said since Washington is seeking an international alliance to fight terrorism in the region, it ought to recognize that the denial of a Palestinian state is used by militants in the region to feed radicalism.
“Giving the Palestinians their right will be reflected as stability in the region,” Shobaki said.