Abbas says won't enter Gaza until Hamas relinquish power

Abbas says won't enter Gaza until Hamas relinquish power
2 min read
09 April, 2018
Mahmoud Abbas has said he refuses to enter the besieged Gaza Strip unless he attains full control of the enclave.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas says he will not return to Gaza [AP]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that unless he gets full control over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, including the group's weapons, he will "not be responsible for what goes on" there.

Abbas, whose presidency expired in 2009, was due to take control of the enclave by December 1 under a landmark unity deal signed in October, but was unable to do so after Hamas refused to relinquish power.

Abbas's comments on Sunday deal another blow to months of US-backed Egyptian efforts to negotiate a deal that would sideline the Islamic militant Hamas and enable Abbas' self-rule government to return to Gaza.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 in a near civil war with Fatah after winning municipality elections.

Since then, Israel and militants in Gaza have fought three wars, the latest a devastating 2014 conflict.

Israel has kept the Strip under a blockade for more than a decade, while Gaza's border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.

Beyond that, Abbas issued a series of punitive measures against the Gaza Strip last year to pressure Hamas, including cutting electricity payments, further worsening an already severe power crisis.

Faced with deteriorating conditions, Hamas turned to Egypt for help and in turn came under pressure to reconcile with Abbas's Fatah.

A deal was signed on October 12 in Cairo setting out parameters for reconciliation.

The first major deadline was kept, with Hamas handing over the Gaza Strip's borders to the Palestinian Authority on November 1 but since Hamas has yet to hand full power to the Ramallah government.