Palestinian factions DFLP, PFLP attempt to mediate between Hamas, Fatah
Rival factions at odds since Hamas' Gaza takeover in June; Haniyeh: Hamas doesn't plan to take over W. Bank.
The leader of radical Palestinian group Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said Sunday that his faction and another hardline faction are trying to mediate between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and Hamas.
Nayef Hawatmeh, Secretary-General of the DFLP, told reporters on Sunday that he, together with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was mediating between the rival parties.
He added that the two Damascus-based groups have proposed a ten-point mediation plan to bring Fatah and Hamas to the negotiating table.
The plan calls on Hamas to relinquish control over the Gaza Strip, which the militant group wrested from Fatah last July in violent clashes. The violent takeover prompted Abbas to fire the Hamas-led government and replace it with a cabinet of moderates in the West Bank. Each side has accused the other of being illegitimate.
The plan also requires both parties to end media incitement campaigns and stop arrests to prepare the ground for talks.
Finally, the plan calls for new presidential and parliamentary elections as well as an investigation into clashes between the two groups.
Hawatmeh said the plan was submitted to Hamas and Fatah officials last month and that the DFLP and PFLP were still waiting for a response.
In July, Israel agreed to Abbas' request to allow Hawatmeh to enter the West Bank for a meeting of a top Palestine Liberation Organization policy-making body, a step that Abbas hoped would provide him with added legitimacy among Palestinians. Hawatmeh then shunned the meeting, saying he rejects Israeli conditions.
Haniyeh: Hamas has no intention of taking over the West Bank
The head of the Hamas government in Gaza said Sunday that the Islamic militant group has no intention of taking over the West Bank by force and is ready to resume dialogue with its political rival Abbas.
However, deposed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas also launched a scathing verbal attack on Abbas' rival government in the West Bank, saying it has persistently tried to undermine Hamas' rule and even cooperated with Israel in tightening a blockade of Gaza.
Haniyeh delivered a 90-minute speech to hundreds of supporters at a Gaza City convention center.
Hamas enforced a new policy, barring journalists who did not obtain a Gaza government press card from covering the event. Most journalists inside the hall were from Hamas-affiliated media, while others, including representatives of foreign news organizations, left after being denied entry. Some followed Haniyeh's speech on TV.
After the June takeover, Israel furthered tightened its blockade of Gaza, allowing only basic supplies and medicine in, and enabling only humanitarian hardship cases to leave.
Haniyeh on Sunday accused the West Bank government of cooperating with Israel. "Palestinian politicians were involved in tightening the siege of Gaza," he said, without referring to Abbas by name.
He also said Hamas activists were being systematically persecuted by Abbas' security forces in the West Bank. In recent months, hundreds of Hamas activists have been detained, and the West Bank government has closed Hamas-linked charities and tried to dry up funding for the group.
Haniyeh said Hamas would not hand over its weapons in the West Bank, adding that "anyone who believes he can erase this great movement from the history of our people is completely mistaken."
Yet he denied that Hamas is plotting to take over the West Bank by force. Last week, a Hamas leader in Gaza had caused an uproar among Abbas' aides when he said Hamas activists would one day pray at Abbas' headquarters in the West Bank, as they had done in Gaza.
"I want to emphasize here that all the reports that we want to repeat what happened in Gaza in the West Bank are baseless, and this is not going to happen," Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh also offered to resume talks with Abbas on a national unity government. Abbas has said he would only do so if Hamas apologizes and returns Gaza's security installations to his forces.
"We consider Hamas to be part of the Palestinian people and we are ready for dialogue if it backs off from its coup," Abbas said Sunday.