Abbas condemns Gaza violence, favors dialogue

CAIRO (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected accusations by Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers that his Fatah movement was behind a deadly bomb attack that killed five Hamas gunmen and a girl in Gaza two days ago.

Abbas renewed calls for dialogue with his Islamist rivals and voiced support for an independent committee of Palestinian figures and human rights activists to investigate the explosion.

The blast destroyed a Hamas car, killing the gunmen and a girl and wounding 20 passers-by.

Speaking in Cairo after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Abbas said: “We would accept any decision that would result from this investigation committee because we do not accept the ugly actions that took place in Gaza.”

“What happened was very regretful and painful to our people and we do not accept it at all,” Abbas told reporters in remarks carried by Egyptian State News Agency MENA.

“At the same time, we do not accept accusations and counter accusations and the direct insinuations by Hamas to accuse Fatah … of responsibility for what happened,” Abbas said.

Blaming Friday’s bombing on Abbas’s Fatah faction, Hamas security forces have launched a crackdown on Fatah, arresting nearly 200 supporters and closing down scores of offices and institutions belonging to the rival, secular, group in Gaza.

In a tit-for-tat action Abbas’s security forces in the occupied West Bank detained 20 Hamas supporters, fuelling further tensions between the two factions.

DIALOGUE

Abbas said Egypt would call representatives of Palestinian factions “within days” for dialogue sessions in Cairo. Mistrust and disputes over conditions and terms for a dialogue had buried several dialogue calls in the past year.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Abbas’s call for dialogue with Hamas was “not honest,” saying investigations into Friday’s killings showed some senior Fatah officials were involved.

“The bombing and killings in Gaza proved that Fatah was not interested in dialogue with Hamas, and all they aspired (to) was to cause anarchy and chaos,” the Hamas spokesman said.

Hamas has always rejected Abbas’s demand that it relinquish control of Gaza, which it seized last year after routing the Western-backed Palestinian leader’s security forces following a brief civil war that left dozens of people dead.

Abbas denied Hamas suggestions he was under U.S. pressure not to restore dialogue with the Islamist group, saying “if something like that happened we would reject it.”

Abbas arrived in Cairo on Saturday to discuss with Mubarak the latest in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and the security deterioration in Gaza and the West Bank.

He said Palestinians should pursue talks with the Israelis despite obstacles such as settlements, continued Israeli army raids into the West Bank, checkpoints and the presence of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

“It is in the interest of our people that we should pursue the negotiations even if there was only a one percent hope it would succeed,” Abbas said.

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