Abbas Denounces Hamas for Gaza Takeover

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 21, 2007; 1:45 AM

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lashed out at the Islamic militants of Hamas on Wednesday, accusing them of trying to build an "empire of darkness" in the Gaza Strip and pledging he would not negotiate with the "murderous terrorists."

Addressing Palestinians for the first time since Hamas seized control of Gaza a week ago, Abbas said Hamas had attacked "national symbols" during the fighting in the coastal territory, including ransacking the house of the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

On Thursday, an Abbas aide said that Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders had been invited by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to attend a summit in Egypt. The meeting is to take place Sunday, the aide, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told The Associated Press.

In other developments, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni talked by telephone Wednesday with Salam Fayyad, the prime minister named by Abbas to head a new Cabinet that excludes Hamas. It was the first direct contact between Israel and the new government.

"The establishment (of the new administration) facilitates progress on ... the peace process," a Foreign Ministry statement quoted Livni as saying.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would soon unfreeze millions of dollars in Palestinian tax receipts and turn them over to Abbas' administration.

Several hours before Abbas' speech, Israel fired missiles and sent tanks on a foray into Gaza, killing four Palestinians in the deadliest military action since Hamas militants took control there. Two more militants were killed by Israeli army fire in a shootout in the West Bank.

After nightfall, the Palestinians hit back with a barrage of rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. First Hamas, then Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. One rocket struck a house, and Israel TV said two Israelis were slightly wounded.

Mahmoud Zahar, the man widely believed to be leading Gaza's new Hamas regime, said the group would be open to a cease-fire with Israel if the army halted its activities in Gaza and the West Bank. Zahar said Hamas was capable of halting the frequent rocket fire out of Gaza, but would retaliate for strikes at any Palestinian militants.

"Nobody will be the protector of the Israeli border," he told The Associated Press.

Abbas' scathing criticism of Hamas came in a televised speech to a top PLO body, the Palestine National Council, seeking support for his declaring a state of emergency and his dismissing of the Hamas-led coalition Cabinet and naming an emergency Cabinet of moderates.

He hinted at the possibility of using the council to give formal approval to the new Cabinet, bypassing the Palestinian parliament, where Hamas has a majority. The council last convened in 2004, after the death of Abbas' predecessor, Arafat.

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