Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that the PA is considering to impose financial sanctions against senior Hamas officials in Gaza, the latest step in a string of punitive measures Abbas has taken against Hamas in recent months.
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Abbas made the remarks in an interview with the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper just hours before his planned meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and other senior Egyptian officials in Cairo. On Saturday, Abbas met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
The Palestinian president told the paper that the PA does not intend to punish the residents of the Gaza Strip. He said that Hamas’ leaders must understand the PA will take immediate financial steps against the organization and its senior leadership “if they continue to rule Gaza and use the money of the Palestinian people to strengthen their hold on power.”
Abbas said a decision on the sanctions will be made at the end of his meetings in Cairo and after he is informed of the details of the contacts Egypt has been conducting with Hamas over the past few weeks.
Hamas’ policies and its use of Palestinian public funds to remain in power have led to continual confrontations, causing the Palestinians to be split into two separate state-like units, said Abbas. The PA will support any initiative that leads to an end to this division that is based on the end of Hamas’ rule in Gaza, the establishment of a national unity government and preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections, he added.
Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the meeting between Abbas and Sissi is expected to be very important given that Hamas, former senior Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, and Egypt have become much closer. While tension exists between the Palestinians and Egypt, the two sides have avoided public conflict. A senior Palestinian official said the situation in Gaza and the crisis between Hamas and the PA will be the central issue of the meeting between Abbas and Sissi, and that the two are expected to discuss regional developments too – including Israel’s actions in the West Bank – in an attempt to restart the peace process with Israel.
Last week, the PA decided to dismiss 6,145 of its employees in Gaza by putting them on early retirement. The PA pledged to lift all the sanctions on Gaza if Hamas allows it to govern there. At the end of June, the PA’s Health Ministry said it will allow Gazans to receive medical treatment in Israel once again, after Israel and the Palestinians reached an understanding on the issue.
In June, the Israel Electric Corporation reduced the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip at the request of the Palestinian Authority, after the PA decided to reduce its payments for electricity by 30 percent. This led to at least 45 minutes less of electricity supply a day for Gaza residents, who receive only about four hours of electricity a day