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23
Mar
2018

The Hamas Response to Mahmoud Abbas’ Threatened Sanctions


  • Hamas is worried by Mahmoud Abbas’ intention to impose tough sanctions on the Gaza Strip and drag it into a war with Israel.
  • Hamas is preparing to torpedo Abbas’ plan with a mass march on Israel’s border.
  • The PA chairman’s claim that Hamas is responsible for an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Hamdallah is mistaken.
One of the cars damaged in the bomb attack on Prime Minister Hamdallah’s convoy in Gaza

One of the cars damaged in the bomb attack on Prime Minister Hamdallah’s convoy in Gaza. (Arab Press)

Mahmoud Abbas’ most recent speech, which was full of frustration and pessimism, included a serious threat that has put a lot of pressure on the residents of Gaza and the Hamas leadership.

The PA chairman threatened to impose new sanctions on Gaza following a recent assassination attempt on PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and intelligence chief Majid Faraj on March 13, 2018.

See: Mahmoud Abbas May Impose New Sanctions on Gaza

After Abbas issued his threats, Egyptian President Sisi and Nabih Berri, Lebanon’s parliamentary speaker, both called the PA chairman in an attempt to dissuade him from imposing new sanctions on Gaza, which would only make the humanitarian situation there even worse.

The Palestinian news agency AMAD.PS reported on March 22, 2018 that senior Hamas official Dr. Razi Hamad called senior PLO official Saeb Erekat and asked him to persuade the PA chairman to refrain from imposing new sanctions on Gaza.

According to the report, Erekat promised him that Mahmoud Abbas is not considering any new sanctions on Gaza.

A Chasm of Mistrust

The Hamas leadership does not believe the PA chairman’s statements. Hamas sources say that Abbas wants to bring Hamas to its knees, rather than enlisting its help to torpedo President Trump’s “deal of the century.”

A Hamas source termed Abbas threats as “political foolishness” or an emotional reaction from Abbas, whose health condition is deteriorating.

Hamas is preparing for the worst-case scenario, which is that Abbas declares Gaza a “rebel zone,” imposes a series of sanctions, and completely disengages from the territory. This could cause the situation in Gaza to explode and even lead to a military conflict with Israel.

Hamas Is Not Responsible for the Assassination Attempt on Hamdallah

An investigation into the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Hamdallah revealed that Hamas was not responsible for the incident as Abbas had claimed.

From the beginning, it was clear that it was not logical that Hamas would shoot itself in the foot and damage its security profile or its image as the rulers of Gaza.

As we publish: Al Hayat (London) reported that the main suspect in the bombing is an ISIS activist, Anas Abu Hoseh, who was killed by Hamas forces on March 22, 2018.

Wanted poster for Anas Abu Hoseh

Wanted poster for Anas Abu Hoseh

Those responsible for the assassination attempt were Salafists from Gaza, who identify with ISIS. Security sources in Hamas claimed to the AMAD.PS news site on March 22, 2018 that members of the cell were connected with Gen. Majid Faraj’s intelligence department.

Is it possible that the Palestinian Authority staged the incident in order to allow Mahmoud Abbas to use it as an excuse to try to take control of Gaza in a very underhanded way?

Some suggest Abbas is behaving as if he has lost his reason and wants to bring the Palestinian house down upon its residents, pushing Gaza towards an explosion and a war with Israel before he leaves the Palestinian political arena.

What Will Hamas Do?

There is not much Hamas can do to withstand Abbas’ threats. However, it is rallying Arab, Islamic, and international sources to put pressure on Abbas to avoid the sanctions that would worsen the situation in Gaza.

Illustration on the Hamas website

Hamas advertisement for its “Great March”

Additionally, Hamas is trying to drive a wedge between the Palestinian Authority and other factions in Gaza and to establish a “national front” that will include all Palestinian political entities, even though some of them are officially part of the PLO, headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

It is very doubtful whether it will succeed in fulfilling this objective. Therefore, the Hamas leadership is hoping that the mass “return marches” it is organizing at the end of March to the Gaza border fence and the construction of giant tents for tens of thousands of Gaza “refugees” will change the situation completely. It may make it more difficult for Abbas to impose new sanctions on Gaza if tens of thousands of Gazans are clashing with the Israeli army at the border fence.

Hamas not only intends to use the “return marches” to draw worldwide attention back to the problems of Palestinian refugees and the Israeli blockade on Gaza, but also to try to foil Abbas’ destructive plan to harm the two million residents of Gaza and to drag them into a new war with Israel.

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
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